The U.S. Constitution
The first article of the constitution designs the legislative branch or Congress of the U.S. Government. The legislative branch is divided into two houses:
- The Senate where there is equal representation between the states, and
- The House of Representatives where representation is based on the states population.
The legislative branch creates the laws, declares war, sets taxes, maintains the military, and prints money.
Checks and Balances: The legislative branch can impeach the president and executive appointees. They can also create courts and approve judges.
- To serve the Senate you must be at least 30 years or older
- have been a citizen for 9 years or more.
- Senators serve six-year terms
- elections to the Senate are staggered over even years so that only about 1/3 of the Senate is up for reelection during any election.
- There must be two Senators from each state, and they each get 1 vote in Congress matters.
- At the time of election, be a resident of the state.
- 100 serve in the U.S. Senate
House of Representative Guidelines:
- 25 years of age
- A citizen of the United States for at least 7 years
- At the time of election, be a resident of the state
- In the House of Representatives, each state gets to choose their own Representatives.
- 435 serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
- Members of the House of Representatives serve two-year terms
- are considered for reelection every even year.
Article 2 of the Constitution creates the Executive Branch. The members of this branch are the president, vice-president, and department heads.
Their jobs are to sign laws into action, enforce laws, command military, appoint department heads, appoint heads of federal agencies, and appoint judges. The Executive Branch has the power to veto laws and pick judges.
The president is the Commander in Chief of the Army and navy of the US, and the Militia of several states. He has power to make treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate by 2/3 vote. He can also fill up all vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the end of their next Session.
The VP's powers mostly remain in the Congress and civil officers or the US. He/She also serves as the president of the U.S. senate.
The Department Heads:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Defense
- Department of Education
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Department of Justice
- Department of State
Article 3 establishes the federal court system. The first section creates the U.S. Supreme Court as the federal system’s highest court. The Supreme Court has final say on matters of federal law that come before it.
The federal courts will decide arguments over how to interpret the Constitution, all laws passed by Congress, and can hear disputes that may arise between states, between citizens of different states, or between states and the federal government.
In 1803, in the case of Marbury v. Madison, the Supreme Court, interpreted Article III and Article VI to give the federal courts final say over the meaning of the federal Constitution.
Article 4 gives Congress the power to determine how states recognize records and laws from other states and how they enforce each others’ court orders.It guarantees that states cannot discriminate against citizens of other states. States must give people from other states the same fundamental rights it gives its own citizens.It also establishes rules for when an alleged criminal flees to another state. It provides that the second state is obligated to return the fugitive to the state where the crime was committed.
It gives Congress the power to protect the states from an invasion by a foreign country, or from significant violent uprisings within each state. It authorizes the legislature of each state to request federal help with riots or other violence.
Article 5 establishes the amendment process. An amendment can be offered in two ways:
- when two-thirds of the Senate (67 of 100 senators) and two-thirds of the House of Representatives (290 of 435 representatives) call for a change to be made
- when two-thirds of the states (34 of 50 states) call for a national constitutional convention (a gathering of representatives of each state) to make a change.
Once the amendment is proposed, three-fourths of the state legislatures or state conventions (38 of 50 states) must vote to ratify the change. An amendment becomes effective when the necessary states have ratified it.
Article 6, also referred to as the Supremacy Clause, states that when a state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law will prevail. Article 6 also provides that both federal and state officials, including legislators and judges, must obey the U.S. Constitution.
Article 7 states the ratification process.
All of the states, except Rhode Island, held conventions to ratify the Constitution. Delaware was the first state to ratify the Constitution in 1787. The new government began with the convening of the first federal Congress on March 4, 1789. Both North Carolina and Rhode Island ratified the Constitution after Congress passed the Bill of Rights and sent it to the states for ratification.