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Video:Checks and Balances in the U.S. Government

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The U.S. Government is divided into 3 branches: legislative, executive, and judicial, in this video, learn how each branch operates.See Transcript

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Transcript:Checks and Balances in the U.S. Government

The US Government is divided into 3 branches, the legislative, executive, and judicial, each of which have a series of checks and balances that ensure a balance of powers is shared between all the branches.  

The Executive Branch

The executive branch is comprised of the President of the United States, the Vice President, and the executive cabinet. It is responsible for the implementation and execution of the laws of the land. It balances the legislative branch by having the power to:

  • Recommend legislation to congress
  • Call special sessions of Congress or dismiss both houses if they cannot agree
  • Holding a veto power over acts passed by congress
  • And by appealing to the people concerning legislation

It oversees the judicial branch through the rights of

  • Appointing Supreme Court and federal court judges
  • Pardon powers for convicted individuals

The Legislative Branch

The legislative branch is made up of the US congress that is divided into the House of Representative and the Senate. This branch holds the power to enact legislation and declare war. Also, importantly, it has far reaching investigation powers that aid in its abilities to balance the branches. It checks the executive branch by

  • Holding approval powers over treaties and presidential appointment
  • Being empowered to remove a president through impeachment
  • Controlling funding for executive actions through the power to tax and allocate funds
  • The ability to override a presidential veto with a 2/3 votes

Over the judicial branch, the legislative branch

  • Must approve the executive branch's judicial appointments
  • May create lower courts
  • Can remove judges though impeachment
  • And may amend the Constitution to overturn judicial decisions

The Judicial Branch

The third branch of government is the judicial branch, comprised of the US court system.  This branch decides the application of certain laws and holds the power to interpret laws, through decisions that flow downward through the court system with the Supreme Court seated at the top. It balances the power of the executive branch through

Judicial review, a practice that allows it to rule executive actions and treaties unconstitutional. 

And also, once appointed, judges hold the position for life, and can only be removed through legislative branch impeachment, insulating them from the whims of the executive branch. 

In regards to oversight of the legislative branch, as with the executive branch, the judicial branch may also rule legislative acts unconstitutional.

By examining the different powers and actions of each branch, it is clear that the framers of the constitution were very careful to make sure no single person or group could take power above the others.

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