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Government: Chapter 3 Lesson 2 The Three Branches of Government
Terms in this set (19)
Supporters of the Constitution had to persuade others that it would not create a government that was too strong. So leaders including James Madison wrote the Federalist Papers. One of the essays addressed the fact that it was impossible for one person/small group to have complete power.
National Government - 3 branches
Had 3 branches of government
Executive - president, administrative, and agencies
Legislative - Congress
Judicial branch - federal courts
The exact role of each branch was heavily debated. To create a limited government, they assigned different powers to each branch and have ways to check the powers of the other.
Responsible for passing laws; divided into 2 houses - HOR and Senate.
HOR - representation based on population.
Senate - same amount of representation (2) for each.
Initially senators were elected by legislators, but the 17th increased power of the people and gave them the direct vote.
Limited and expressed its powers in the Constitution.
Legislative Branch - Expressed and Enumerated Powers
Most of the Powers are in Article 1, Section 8 and say what laws it can and can't pass. These are called enumerated powers because they are listed 1 -18. These powers include:
- Economic powers - levy taxes, borrow money, coin money, punish counterfeiting, and regulating commerce.
- Issues of national defense - can declare war, raise and support the armed forces, and organize the militia.
- Power to naturalize citizens and establish post offices and courts.
The Elastic Clause
Congress has the authority to make all laws they feel are necessary and proper. It lets Congress stretch their powers to meet situations the Founders could not anticipate.
How far can the elastic clause go? McCulloch v. Maryland
But how far can Congress stretch their power? SC ruled in 1819 in McCulloch v Maryland which was about Congress;s power to create a national bank.
They determined that the clause allows Congress to create a national bank, even though it was not explicitly stated in the Constitution. Because Congress had the power to create the bank, MD's taxing of its branches was unconstitutional.
Since this case, Congress used this power in many ways -- like allocating money to test a missile-defense system (not stated in Constitution explicitly) based on necessary and proper execution of its power to raise and support Armies.
Americans resented KGIII in how he exerted his extensive powers, so they wanted to give nearly all power to the states and did not even allow an independent executive branch at the national level in the Articles. Quickly, it became clear that the structure of government under the Articles was too weak and a strong government with an executive was needed to act in the interests of the nation as a whole, but still limit their powers.
Executive Branch - Their role
President is the head of the branch (includes many executive departments that carry out and enforce the laws). The constitution does not specify how many or what departments there should be, there are 15 right now - DOJ, DOE, DOT, etc. Leaders of these shall report to the POTUS and advise him/her on their areas of responsibility.
Includes numerous federal agencies, boards, commissions, government corporations, and advisory boards that carry out specific executive functions like the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, and the Corporation for National and Community Service.
Powers of the President
Most of the specific powers are defined in Article 2, Section 2 & 3.
They can grant pardons, make treaties, and appoint ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, and other government officials. They can fire officials in the executive branch, make agreements with foreign nations or take emergency actions to save the nation.
Founders recognized the need for strong army to protect the U.S. and at the same time, they realized that if the military was not limited, it could be used to seize control of the government and threaten our democracy. Their solution was to make the military subject to civilian authority and to divide control over the military between different branches. POTUS is commander and chief and gives Congress authority to declare war and fund the military.
Article 3 establishes the federal court system; names the SC and then gives Congress authority to establish inferior courts.
Judges hold their place for life unless commit a crime.
When the branch was set up, every state had heard cases and disputes about their state laws or their constitutions. The Constitution created the federal court system which hears cases about the U.S. Constitution, federal law, foreign treaties, international law, and bankruptcies.
In this dual court system each court has the authority to hear certain kinds of cases which is known as the court's jurisdiction.
Much of its power comes from the court's ability to interpret the Constitution and ability to overturn laws called judicial review.
SC first exercised this not-explicitly written power in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison which concerned the Judiciary Act of 1789. The court decided that this law gave the Court more power than the Constitution allowed, so the law was unconstitutional. John Marshall wrote an opinion saying that the law was unconstitutional and remains one of the most important rulings as it asserted judicial review, elevating its status to equal with the other 2.
All 3 branches have changed significantly over time. Earlier presidents would hardly recognize the office today. GW had little to do some days so much he held tea parties. Modern presidents are timed minute by minute with hundreds of WH staff, not only a few advisers like GW. They had a military force of millions, many federal departments of all executive branch employees, a fleet of airplanes and helicopters ready to take the POTUS and VP anywhere.
In the 1st Congress - only 24 introduced bills and the House introduced 143. Legislating was merely a part time job as many could afford to not work or had other jobs.
Wasn't until 1900s were Congress was in continuous session. Now it is open every day essentially with 10,000 bills introduced yearly.
SC justices had way less to do and for the first 3 years, had almost no cases. They would ride circuit and go to hear appeals in district courts when off session.
Not until 1891 when Congress created the modern federal court system.
Relationships Among Branches
By having separation of powers, checks and balances, and 3 branches, the Constitution assured that the branches would need to cooperate to take many important actions. It also created a conflict as the branches limiting one another.
Examples of Sharing Power
To avoid the president becoming too powerful, many of their powers require cooperation with Congress - like negotiating treaties with Foreign countries, they need the Senate to approve before its a law.
Power of Congress is limited by the need for presidential approval, if they pass bills, the President must sign it for it to be a law. They may veto it and then Congress would need ⅔ majority to override it. Once it becomes a law, the executive branch must carry out and enforce it.
Executive branch often provides plans for the laws that COngress considers.
President usually works with Congress and proposes legislative agenda. Congress appropriates funds for the government to function, but the executive branch spends money.
Checks and balances
Each branch can check or control the power of the other 2. President can veto bills, but the House or Senate can override with ⅔. Congress can impeach the president or federal judges. Courts determine what federal laws mean and overturn if they rule them unconstitutional. Congress can pass a law clarifying the meaning of a law the SC ruled unconstitutional or by proposing an amendment. Courts can rule actions of the executive branch unconstitutional, but need the president to enforce their rulings.
Conflicts arising from checks and balances
Ability of branches to limit one another leads to conflict. Congress and the president can quarrel over the meaning of a law, which may bring federal courts in. Congress relies on the president to enforce the law.
Presidents have said Congress was trying to encroach on its powers of the executive to lead and protect the nation. Sometimes Congress is accused of giving too much power to the president.
Political parties continue to be a source of conflict, if the POTUS is democrat and the Senate is Republiccan (think Obama, oh god I miss Obama).
Cooperation is difficult as each party has different goals and philosophy of government. There can either be compromises or gridlock.
Common Checks and balances issue between L&E vs J
Legislative and executive branches can come into conflict with the Courts as the Constitution allows Congress to limit the SC's jurisdiction, but COngress does not often use that authority because it would challenge the independence of the judiciary.
Baker v Carr (1964)
SC ruled that state legislatures must reapportion seats according to population, some members of Congress were outraged. The House passed a bill to strip federal courts of jurisdiction in such matters and the Senate killed the bill.
In rare cases, the president has refused to enforce a SC decision: 1832 - Worcester v Georgia
The Cherokee in GA were living on land guaranteed by treaty. GA wanted this land and tried to subject the Cherokee to state law. A non-native American missionary was arrested for living in the Cherokee nation without a license and he then sued.
Ruled in favor of the Cherokee and John Marshall wrote the decision. Andrew Jackson declared, "He made the decision, now let him enforce it."
This conflict underscores the kinds of power the other branches have -- the judiciary has great authority, however the executive commands the military. Later there was the trail of tears.
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