Terms in this set (200)

The structure of American government is outlined in the United States Constitution, which provides for a federal government with separation of powers and checks and balances. The Constitution also provides for a representative government that is limited in its powers.

A federal government has powers divided between a strong national government and the fifty state governments. The national government has such delegated powers as declaring war, maintaining the armed forces, and regulating interstate commerce. State governments can exercise powers not given to the United States and not denied to the states by the Constitution. The power to establish local governments, an educational system, and traffic and safety laws are examples of powers reserved to the states.

On both levels of government, the powers are separated into three branches, the legislative branch that makes the law, the executive branch that enforces and carries out the law, and the judicial branch that interprets and applies the law to specific cases.

Although the branches are separate and distinct, each of the branches can exercise a series of restraints on the other branches. For instance, the President can veto an act passed by Congress and the Congress can override a veto by a two-thirds vote.

The Constitution provides for a government that is representative through the election of members of Congress, the lawmaking branch. All branches are limited in powers by restrictions placed on them in various parts of the Constitution. The Supreme Court, through its power of judicial review, can determine when any of the parts of government act contrary to the Constitution.