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Politics of the United States
APUSH CHAPTER NINE VOCAB
Terms in this set (15)
How does the system of checks and balances work?
Montesquieu's philosophy also contributed the concept of checks and balances to the American political system. He believed that although the powers of government should be divided, they should also be so closely interrelated that no one branch would be truly independent of the other two. Because each branch checks, or limits, the powers of the other two, six basic relationships exist under this system:
THE EXECUTIVE CHECKS THE JUDICIARY
From the Supreme Court down to the district courts, all federal judges are appointed by the President. By choosing judges who reflect his own political philosophy, a President can influence the decisions of those courts for as many years as his appointees remain on the bench. It should be noted, however, that a President may not interfere with judges who are hearing a case. Supreme Court justices never confer with the President before handing down their decisions.
THE EXECUTIVE CHECKS THE LEGISLATURE
The most dramatic move a President can make to check the actions of Congress is to veto a bill he dislikes. Other possible actions include (a) proposing his own legislation to Congress; (b) refusing to use powers delegated by Congress; (c) refusing to spend money appropriated by Congress; (d) influencing congressional elections through personal campaigning; (e) appealing directly to the people for support; and (f)calling special sessions of Congress. Only (a) and (f) are powers provided by the Constitution. The others are informal checks that have developed through usage-and have been subjected to criticism and even court tests. The Supreme Court ruled in early 1975, for example, that the Constitution does not give the President specific authority to "impound" funds appropriated by Congress (item c, above). Whether the President has the implied power to do so, however, remains open to court tests.
LEGISLATURE CHECKS THE JUDICIARY
Except for the Supreme Court, the entire federal court system was established by Congress-and could be abolished by Congress if it decided to do so. The Senate must approve the appointment of all federal judges. As an example, Congress voted to reject two Supreme Court nominees proposed by President Nixon. Congress also determines the salaries of all federal judges, but may not lower a judge's pay while he or she is on the bench. Congress has the Power to impeach a judge whose judicial misconduct violates the public trust.
LEGISLATURE CHECKS THE PRESIDENT
Congress bolds a major trump card in its relations with the President-the power of the purse. Only Congress can establish the budget for the executive branch; the yearly parade of administration officials going up to the capitol to explain their programs and to plead for more money, testifies to the importance of this power. Even a presidential veto is not absolute; by a two-thirds vote of congress, it may be overturned. Congress also has the ultimate check on the president, the Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to impeach all civil (nonmilitary) officials. The Senate has the additional right of confirming presidential appointees: cabinet members, ambassadors, etc. Congress also plays a role in foreign policy through its power to declare war, limit foreign aid, determine the size of the military, and in the Senate, ratify treaties.
THE JUDICIARY CHECKS THE EXECUTIVE
The power of Judicial Review (federal courts decide constitutionality) gives the judiciary the right to examine all actions of the executive branch. An executive order or regulation that does not meet the test of constitutionality will be set aside by the courts.
By use of injunctions, federal judges may also forbid some actions and modify others.
THE JUDICIARY CHECKS THE LEGISLATURE
Judicial Review (federal courts decide constitutionality) also applies to all federal laws and to state laws that involve federal questions. The review process works slowly. Only after a plaintiff
challenges a particular law may the courts take jurisdiction. A court test usually begins in the lower courts and works its way up to the Supreme Court in a series of appeals. Any federal court may declare a law unconstitutional; the decision stands unless appealed. Once a law has been found unconstitutional, it has no legal force anywhere in the United States or its possessions.
2/3s vote by both House and Senate and then ratification by 3/4s of the states
(or 2/3s states call for constitutional convention then ratification by 3/4s of states)
exclusive powers of national government:
establish post office
control foreign and interstate trade
powers retained by states:
establish voting qualification
regulate trade within state
create local governments
powers shared between national and state governments:
national government has powers not specifically mentioned but vital in carrying out delegated powers: "Necessary and Proper" clause
Legislative Branch (Congress)
Executive Branch (President)
Judicial Branch (Federal Courts)
Recommended textbook explanations
United States Government: Democracy In Action
Richard C. Remy
United States Government: Principles in Practice
Luis Ricardo Fraga
Magruder's American Government
William A. McClenaghan
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