SEPARATION OF POWERS
The U.S. Constitution divides power, then re-divides it.
First, it separates the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S powers from the STATE GOVERNMENT’S powers.
Second, it takes FEDERAL GOVERNMENT’S share of the power, and divides it three ways:
1. LEGISLATIVE – The Congress – they make the laws.
2. EXECUTIVE– The President and his/her cabinet – supervise the laws. The Executive branch includes official
advisors to the President known as the “CABINET”.
3. JUDICIAL – the federal court system (there are also state courts which we’ll discuss later) they enforce the
These are the THREE BRANCHES of the federal government.
ALL THREE BRANCHES ARE EQUAL TO EACH OTHER!
Approximately HALF of the power of the U.S. Government belongs to the states.
The other half belongs to the Federal Government.
The Federal Government divides it’s power evenly three ways:
To keep each branch equal to the others, the Constitution provides a system of CHECKS AND BALANCES.
Each branch can CHECK (stop) another branch if it tries to overuse it’s power.
Each branch can “check”, another branch. In other words, no branch has more power than another, sort of like “rock-
With CHECKS AND BALANCES, one branch can always top another branch, depending upon the situation.
POWERS of the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH (Congress)
1) Make BILLS (laws if signed by the President) and approve treaties with, or declare war on other countries.
2) Approve Presidential appointments to the Cabinet & Judicial Branch.
3) Impeach the President or judges for wrongdoing.
4) Create an amendment to the Constitution.
5) Give final approval or disapproval of Presidential Elections.
CHECKS on the LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
1) The Supreme Court can rule a law is UNCONSTITUTIONAL (against the rules of the Constitution).
2) THE PRESIDENT CAN VETO (CANCEL) A LAW PASSED BY CONGRESS.
3) THE JUDICIAL BRANCH CAN CONVICT (send a person to jail) a member of Congress.
POWERS of the EXECUTIVE BRANCH (President)
1) A bill only becomes a law if the President signs it. The President may veto it.
2) Appoints Federal Judges including the Supreme Court.
CHECKS ON the EXECUTIVE BRANCH (President)
1) Congress can OVERRIDE (vote over) a President’s veto with a 2/3 vote.
2) Congress can reject a President’s Judicial or Cabinet appointments.
3) Congress can IMPEACH (vote to remove) a President.
4) Supreme Court can declare a Presidential act Unconstitutional.
5) Supreme Court presides over Impeachment hearings.
POWERS of the JUDICIAL BRANCH (Courts)
1) Can declare a law from Congress, or Presidential Act is Unconstitutional.
2) Presides over Impeachment trials of Congress or President.
3) Is appointed for life.
CHECKS ON the JUDICIAL BRANCH (Courts)
1) Judges may be impeached by Congress.
2) Judges are appointed by the President and approved by Congress.
3) Laws declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court can be added to the Constitution by AMENDING (changing) it.
The Executive branch includes official advisors to the President known as the “CABINET”.
Most states also divide and re-divide their power. They separate power between LOCAL, COUNTY, and STATE
They divide power three ways, according to the Federal model.
LEGISLATIVE – State House & Senate.
EXECUTIVE – The Governor and his/her staff.
JUDICIAL – State courts.