The Checks and Balances Created by the 3 Branches of Government

( – When we think of government, we often imagine a single, cohesive structure. In the United States, leadership is divided into three distinct branches; the legislative, the executive, and the judiciary. Now, countries around the world use this framework to manage the risk of a single person or entity gaining too much influence; this doctrine is known as the separation of powers.

When the Founding Fathers wrote our Constitution, one of their main objectives was to make sure tyranny would never take hold of the nation again. They used this three-pronged approach to government as a safeguard against tyranny, and the system has provided us with reliable and effective leadership for nearly 250 years.

Let’s examine the three branches and their powers:

The Legislative

The House of Representatives and the Senate, collectively, form the Houses of Congress and are the legislative arm of America’s government. They draft and vote on bills, and have the authority to declare war.

Congress also has the power to approve or reject many presidential appointments. It can investigate the activities of the president if there is a suspicion of misconduct. Additionally, if there are impeachment proceedings against a member of the judiciary, the Houses of Congress act as the jury. In case of an impeachment proceeding against a president, the Senate acts as a jury while members of the House act as prosecutors.

The Executive

The president serves as the head of the executive branch of our government which also includes the vice-president, the executive departments (such as the Defense Department), and the Cabinet. Many smaller federal bodies are considered to be part of this branch as well.

Once the Senate and House of Representatives both vote to enact a bill, it comes to the president for ratification. If a president chooses to veto a bill, only a two-thirds Congressional majority can then pass it. Presidents also have the power to pardon criminals and sign executive orders.

While the legislative branch retains the authority to declare war, the president is the official commander-in-chief of the US military.

The Judiciary

This is the name given to the legal arm of the government. Headed by the Supreme Court, the judiciary has the task of enforcing and interpreting the laws passed by the Houses of Congress and the president. They decide on punishments for criminals, settle disputes between individuals, and deal with a wide range of public administration issues.

The judiciary also may serve to limit the power of the executive and legislative branches. It can initiate judicial review of legislation it considers unconstitutional, and the chief justice presides over presidential impeachment proceedings.

The president appoints judges to the Supreme Court, but appointments must be confirmed by the Senate. Once in place, a justice can only be removed by a lengthy impeachment process. This means judges can be impartial when considering the conduct of elected officials.

The three branches of government and separation of powers can be tricky concepts to understand fully. This reflects the reality that leading a country is a complicated business. To ensure the interests of ordinary citizens and to safeguard our nation from ever falling under the rule of tyranny, we need a system that keeps too much power from resting in one place.

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