Separation of Powers: the branches of government and what they do

When: In 1787 leaders of the states gathered to write the Constitution- a set of principles that told how the new nation would be governed.

Who: The founding fathers wanted a strong and fair national government, but also recongized the signifagance of individual freedoms.

Why: To ensure a separation of powers and to prevent the government from abusing its power.

What: the U.S. Federal Government is made up of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.
This separation is described in the first three articles, of the Constitution.

Executive: Face of the nation, Commander and chief are just a couple ways of naming the head of the executive branch. (Re)Elected by the country every four years, the president is responsible for approving and carrying out laws passed by the legislative branch, treaty negotiations, acting as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces. This branch includes the Vice President, Chief of staff and members of the cabinet, chosen by the president his/her self. Each cabinet is made up of the heads of the 15 major departments of the government.

The Cabinet

The Secretary of State,The Secretary of the Treasury,The Secretary of Defense,The Attorney General (Justice Department),The Secretary of the Interior,The Secretary of Agriculture,The Secretary of Commerce,The Secretary of Labor,The Secretary of Health and Human Services,The Secretary of Homeland Security, The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development,The Secretary of Transportation,The Secretary of Education,The Secretary of Energy, and The Secretary of Veterans' Affairs.

Legislative: Coming in with 17% percent approval rating (this is generous, some sources say it's really as low as 5%) is the Congress and the House. Together they are known as the Legislative branch.

Senators are elected by their states to serve six-year terms.With two from every state ,there are a total 100 senators in the Senate.There are 435 representatives in the House of Representatives. The number of representatives each state gets is based on its population.Representatives are elected by their states and serve two-year terms. The Speaker of the House, elected by the representatives, is considered the head of the House.

The most prominate duty of the legislative branch is to make laws. Laws are written, discussed and voted on in Congress.The Senate approves nominations made by the President to the Cabinet, the Supreme Court, federal courts and other posts. The Senate must ratify all treaties by a two-thirds vote.

Judicial: The Supreme Court is the head of the judicial branch. Their job is to rules whether something is whether or not it is permitted under the Constitution.

On the Supreme Court there are nine justices, or judges: eight associate justices and one chief justice.

Judges are nominated by the President and approved by the Senate, they are without term limits. The highest court in the country, The Supreme Court's decisions are final, and no other court can overrule those decisions.

Major Supreme Court Cases-

  • 1803 Marbury v. Madison— was the first time a law passed by Congress was declared unconstitutional
  • 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford—Declared that a slave was not a citizen, and that Congress could not outlaw slavery in U.S. territories
  • 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson—Said that racial segregation was legal
  • 1954 Brown v. Board of Education—Made racial segregation in schools illegal
  • 1966 Miranda v. Arizona —stated that criminal suspects must be informed of their rights before being questioned by the police.
  • 1973 Roe v. Wade—Made abortion legal
  • 2003 Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger—Ruled that colleges can, under certain conditions, consider race and ethnicity in admissions.
  • 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission- the Supreme Court ruled,that the government cannot restrict the spending of corporations for political campaigns, maintaining that it's their First Amendment right to support candidates as they choose

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