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During the Constitutional Convention, delegates decided to completely throw out the Articles of Confederation and write a new constitution. The constitution became the supreme law of the land in 1787 when it was approved by 9 states. The new United States Constitution created a three-branch government. Congress remained the legislative branch. However, it became a bicameral legislature with more powers than it had before. Congress is now made up of the House of Representatives where the number of representatives is based on a state’s population and the Senate where each state has two senators. The executive branch was created and would be headed by a president. This branch would also include the vice-president and the president’s cabinet. Lastly, the judicial branch containing the Supreme Court and other lower courts was established. Using this principle of separation of powers along with the principle of checks and balances would ensure that no one branch could become too powerful. Each branch of government has its own job and powers and has ways to check on the other branches.
The primary job of the legislative branch is to make laws. Bills are proposed by a representative in the House of Representatives. Once a bill has been proposed, it is sent to a standing committee with members who are experts on topics such as agriculture, education, or relationships with other countries. The committee members review the bill and make any necessary revisions before deciding to send it to the House Floor for a vote. Once a bill has made it to the House Floor, it is debated and when most of the representatives approve the bill it is sent to the Senate. In the Senate, a committee discusses the bill and sends it to the Senate Floor to be voted on. Once approved by the Senate, it is then ready to be sent to the President who can either sign the bill into law or veto it. Other than creating laws, Congress has other powers including the power to declare war, print money, tax, establish lower courts, establish a post office, raise an army and a navy, and regulate trade.
The United States Constitution created the executive branch to enforce laws made by Congress. While the executive branch includes many people in different government agencies, it is the ultimate responsibility of the President to make sure laws are enforced. In order to enforce laws, the President is granted several powers. These powers make it possible for the President to direct the national government. The President of the United States is the head of state and the commander in chief of the armed forces. He or she has the power to sign bills into law or veto a bill, preventing it from becoming a law. The President appoints the heads of federal agencies, judges, and ambassadors. He or she conducts business with foreign countries and has the power to negotiate and sign treaties. Pardons may be granted by the President to people convicted of federal crimes. The President must gain the approval of the Senate for most of these powers and, he or she must give a State of the Union address from time to time to Congress.
The third and by no means least important branch of the government is the judicial branch. The judicial branch was created to interpret laws. With this job and the power of judicial review, the Supreme Court can decide whether a law is constitutional. Once laws have been interpreted by the courts, they are applied to individual cases. Federal courts have the power to try cases involving the Constitution, laws of the United States, treaties, and fights between states. The Supreme Court may try cases involving ambassadors of foreign nations, disagreements between states, and disputes between U.S. citizens and foreign nations.
Separation of powers into three branches of government has given the federal government the strength it needs to properly govern a successful country. Through the system of checks and balances, popular sovereignty, and limited government the United States has avoided tyranny. The Constitution was written to include an amendment process which has allowed it to remain the supreme law of the land for many years. Though changes can be made, separation of powers is a distinct and vital part of our Constitution and country.
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