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25 terms

Citizenship Study Guide

by Alisha Lokhande Social Studies Class 4
1. What is the Constitution?
The Constitution is the "Supreme Law of the Land" and shows the rules for government and explains its jobs in eight parts. The first is the Preamble, which says the reason why the Constitution was created. The second through fourth is about the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches in that order. The next is about state powers and limits, as well as making new states. Article 5 says the Constitution can be amended or changed. The sixth Article mentions that the Constitution is the highest law and unless amended, cannot be gone against. The last Article states that for it to go into effect nine states must approve it. Finally, the last part is for amendments that have been made.
2. What is the Preamble of the Constitution?
The Preamble of the Constitution is the opening and first paragraph. One of the most well known parts of the Constitution, its first three words are "We, the People". In turn, these words show that the U.S. has a democratic government. "We, the People", created this government and it works for us, instead of the other way around.
3. What are the branches of government?
There are three main branches of government. They are the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches. The Legislative Branch creates laws. The Executive Branch enforces these laws. Lastly, the Judicial Branch interprets them. All branches have equal amounts of power and balance each other out.
4. Explain how the government is designed with "separation of powers" and "checks and balances".
When the Constitution was first created the Framers wanted to guard against people abusing their power. The result is that they created a system with all branches having equal power. If the Legislative create a bad bill, then the Executive can veto it. However, if it passes then the Judicial can declare it "unconstitutional" and have it removed. All of the powers balance out, and if one Branch tries to tip it in their favor they can be checked or stopped by another branch. Basically it's like a big game of rock, paper, scissors or chess.
5. Who makes federal laws?
Federal laws are made by the legislative branch in a long process. First the two houses come up with two separate bills on a topic. Then they are given to the two committees. Afterward, they are sent back to the houses and voted on. Since there are two bills, each house has to agree to a compromise between the two and vote on it. Finally they are sent to the President, who can either sign it, veto it, or do nothing. If it is signed it becomes a law, but if vetoed it goes back to Congress to be edited.
6. What are two parts of the U.S. Congress?
The U.S. Congress is a bicameral legislature, which means it has two houses. They are the Senate as well as the House of Representatives. The Senate is the higher house and thus the House is the lower one. Since the Senate is the upper house it has several exclusive powers like approving treaties, as well as appointments of Cabinet secretaries, and overseeing trials of impeached officials. The House has the powers to impeach officials, elect the President in case of a tie, etc...
7. How many U.S. senators are there?
In the Senate each state has equal representation, or two senators. Since there are 50 states there are 100 senators who serve 6 year terms each. However, the terms are scattered so every 2 years one third of the Senate is replaced. To become a senator you have to be at least 30 years old. You would also have to be a citizen of the U.S. for at least 9 years and live in the state you wish to represent. The two current Massachusetts senators are John Kerry and Scott Brown.
8. How many voting members are in the House of Representatives?
The House of Representatives has 435 voting members with 2 year terms each. The amount of representation for each state is based on population, so states with more people have more seats in the House. They are chosen by whoever gets the most votes. They also have to be at least 25 years old, be a seven year citizen of the U.S., and have to live in the state they represent. My Massachusetts Representative is Niki Tsongas.
9. Who is in charge of the Executive Branch?
The President is the leader of the Executive Branch. He is the Chief Executive for the federal government as well as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. As leader of armed forces he can choose when to send in troops and also when to use nuclear weapons. When he is the lead executive he enforces laws, appoints federal officials, can approve or veto acts of Congress, etc... His term is 4 years long and he can be reelected only once more. To become President he must be at least 35 years old, be born in the U.S., and have lived her for at least 14 years.
10. Who vetoes bills?
Bills are vetoed by the President. Veto means voting against or refusing to agree with something. The President vetoes bills by returning it to the legislative branch unsigned in 10 days. If he does this then the bill doesn't become a law and it is edited by Congress again. There is also the "pocket veto" where the President can indirectly veto a bill. Here if Congress adjourns before 10 days and the President doesn't sign the bill, it dies.
11. When and how is the President elected?
U.S. citizens vote on a President every 4 years on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November. These votes become the basis for the Electoral College who are chosen based on the people's votes. They actually vote and elect a President in December. Although the President is chosen in December he is inaugurated in January on the 20th. He would then be President for the next 4 years and can be reelected only once after.
12. What does the President's Cabinet do?
The President's Cabinet are his advisers. They help him make correct decisions based on the knowledge they have. All of them are the leaders of their departments and experts in their fields. Most are known as "Secretaries of ...". Examples are the Secretary of Energy, Secretary of Commerce, and Secretary of Education.
13. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
In the event that the President can't serve in office then the Vice-President takes his place. This has happened 9 times before when they either died or quit. William Harrison is famous for serving the shortest term of office, 31 days, when he died from pneumonia on April 4, 1841. Abraham Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865 by John Wilkes Booth. Also, Franklin D. Roosevelt died of cerebral hemorrhage on April 12, 1945 during his fourth term of office.
14. If both the President and Vice-President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
If both the President and Vice-President are not able to serve the Speaker of the House becomes President. The Speaker of the House is the chairman of the House of Representatives. Although the Speaker is from the Legislative Branch he or she is still in line for the job as President after the Vice-President. To date, the Speaker has never become President, since the President and Vice-President could both serve. The current Speaker of the House is John Boehner.
15. Who are the current President and Vice-President?
The current President of the United States is Barack Obama and his Vice-President is Joe Biden. Barack Obama is the 44th President as well as the first African-American President of the U.S. After graduating from law school, he made important achievements as a U.S. and Illinois Senator like passing the first major ethics reform in 25 years. Joe Biden was elected when he was just 29 years old into the U.S. Senate and a few weeks after the election Biden's wife and daughter were killed in a car accident. In 1977 he married Jill Jacobs and now has three children, Beau, Hunter, and Ashley.
16. What is impeachment?
Impeachment is when a government official is accused of doing something against the law and is punished as well as removed from their position. In the U.S. impeachment has two parts to it. The first is when the official is accused of a crime. This is usually done by the House of Representatives. Next the accused goes on trial before the Senate. If there is a two thirds majority against the defendant than they are immediately removed from office and possibly other offices as well.
17. What does the Judicial Branch do?
The Judicial Branch interprets laws that were made by the Legislative Branch. It is made up of the Supreme Court as well as a series of lesser courts. It acts as a ladder where cases that are appealed can continue climbing up until they reach the top and have to stop. The top of the ladder is the Supreme Court and it usually hears cases that has to do with people's rights being violated. It also deals with issues that involve more than one state.
18. What is the highest court in the United States?
The highest court in the U.S. is the Supreme Court. It can choose the cases it hears and most have to do with the violation of someone's rights. If it hears a case where the law is wrong it can declare that law "unconstitutional" and therefore permanently invalid. The Judicial Branch has the last say and the Executive and Legislative Branches can't do anything about it if the Judicial strikes a law down.
19. How many Justices does the Supreme Court have?
The Supreme Court has 9 justices. They are made up of the Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. The current Chief Justice is John Roberts who was appointed on September 29, 2005. All justices are appointed for life and can only be removed if they die, resign, or are impeached. They are chosen by the President and approved by the Legislature.
20. What is an amendment?
In the Constitution, Article 5 states that the Constitution can be amended or changed. However, it also mentions that it needs two thirds of each house in Congress and three fourths of the states to approve it. Also, the number of seats in the Senate cannot be amended. Although the Framers made the Constitution flexible, they may have not thought to include certain parts that were important or have drastically changes. An example is of the 3/5 Compromise, which is no longer in effect since slavery is banned.
21. What do we call the first 10 amendments to the Constitution?
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights. They were introduced to Congress by James Madison and were ratified on December 15, 1791. These amendments limited the federal governments power. They were included because the Framers didn't want what happened with England and King George to repeat itself. Part of the reason the colonists revolted against Britain was because there rights were violated with Acts like the Quartering Act, Stamp Act, etc.
22. What are the freedoms included in the First Amendment?
Freedoms included in the First Amendment are of religion, speech, press, petitioning the government, and allowing people to peacefully assemble. According to this amendment people are free to follow the religion they want to, as well as speak and write about what they want. A lot of these freedoms were included because of how the colonists were treated by Great Britain.
23. Define federalism and give two examples of each of the following
a) powers that belong only to the federal government
b) powers that belong to the states
c) shared powers
Federalism is the division of power between the state and federal governments. The federal government can declare war and print money. The state government can issue licenses. They can also ratify amendments to the Constitution. Both governments can collect taxes and make and enforce laws.
24. What are two major political parties in the United States?
Two major political parties in the U.S. are the Democrats and the Republicans. A political party is an organization to gain political power, which has a set of specific ideals. Republicans believe in competition and independence. They are not so keen on government interference and encourage cost saving. On the other hand, Democrats believe more in equality and generosity. According to Democrats everyone should have an equal chance to do what they want.
25. What are four responsibilities of United States citizens?
A responsibility of a United States citizen is to follow laws. There are laws and rules for a reason and obeying them will help everyone. A second responsibility is paying taxes, since the government cannot do it's job fully if it doesn't have the money it needs. Another job for Americans is to vote. Selecting good leaders for our nation is vital for letting our country run smoothly. Finally, all citizens should go for jury duty. It is important for all matters to be resolved fairly and without judgment, which is best done with a jury.