System of Government

Separation of powers

In order to make sure no one person or group of people got too powerful, the writers at the Constitutional Convention decided to divide the power and responsibilities of the government. This is known as "checks and balances" or separation of power.


Lets talk about the federal government!

The federal government, which makes laws for all Americans in every state, is made of three branches (or parts):

1. Legislative
2. Executive
3. Judicial

The Constitution gives the federal government (the people in Washington D.C.) some powers which include the following:

Legislative branch

The Legislative branch is composed of Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. The main job Congress is to make federal laws. The U.S. Senate is composed of 100 members, called senators. Each state has two, regardless of their total population. Once they are elected, senators serve for six (6) years. Make sure you know the name of at least one of your U.S. Senators at the time of your exam interview. Senators represent all the people in the state. The House of Representatives are composed of 435 members called Representatives. Some states have more Representatives than others because they have a higher population, unlike the Senate where everyone has the same number of Senators. Once elected, U.S. Representatives serve for two years. Make sure you know the name of your U.S. Representative at the time of your exam interview. The "leader" of the House of Representatives is known as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. The current Speaker is John Boehner. He is a Republican. Which brings me to the next point, the two major political parties in the United States are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.

Executive Branch

The President is in charge of the executive branch. The President signs bills to become laws, directs the military (he is Commander in Chief), and vetoes (rejects) bills. Elections for President are in November. Once elected, a President serves for four (4) years. The current President is Barack Obama, of the Democratic Party, and the current Vice President is Joe Biden. If the President cannot serve, the Vice President becomes President. If then the Vice President cannot serve, the Speaker of the House becomes President. The President has a group of people called Cabinet, who are leaders of federal executive departments. The President's Cabinet advises the President. Cabinet-level positions include:

No need to memorize all of these, just know TWO for the exam :)

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court is in charge of the judicial branch. The judicial branch

1. Reviews laws
2. Explains laws
3. Resolves disputes
4. Decides if a law goes against the Constitution

The judicial branch is made of all the courts in the country but the highest court in the United States is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has nine (9) people, called justices. The leader of the Supreme Court, the "Chief Justice" is John Roberts.

Let's talk about states now!

We already mentioned the powers the Constitution gives the federal government. If you don't remember these best to go back and make sure you know them. The Constitution grants states some powers as well, this concept is known as federalism. The states have the followig powers

Also, you need to know the capital of your state and your governor at the time of your interview!

Quiz on System of Government