The federal government is based on the ideas in the United States Constitution. Within the federal government are three branches, each serving a separate but equal purpose. Learning about the different branches of government and their jobs and responsibilities will help you to better understand how America operates.
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The executive branch of the federal government includes the president of the United States, the vice president and the Cabinet. The executive branch is led by the president, who is in charge of the government and is responsible for implementing and enforcing policies and laws. The vice president is the second in command and is ready to take over as president if the president is unable perform his duties for any reason.
The Cabinet contains presidentially appointed department heads such as the secretary of state, secretary of the interior and the attorney general. There are 15 executive departments: Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.
The legislative branch of the federal government is made up of two bodies that make the laws of the United States. These are the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Senate is made up of 100 senators, with two members representing each state in the union. They hold office for six years. The House of Representatives includes representatives from all the states, with numbers based on the population of the states. There are 435 members of the House who are elected for two-year terms.
The Senate and House meet separately during most sessions, with joint sessions of Congress meeting for certain occasions such as the annual State of the Union Address. The main function of the legislative branch is to make or modify laws. Proposals for laws or changes in the law are introduced in the Senate or House with new bills or resolutions. A majority vote is required to pass the proposals, which then go to the president for signature.
The judicial branch of the federal government is made up of the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals and the U.S. District Courts. Judges who make up the federal judiciary are the only primary members of the three branches who are not elected by the people. Members of the judicial branch are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Congress.
The main function of the judiciary is to interpret laws and determine whether they are constitutional. They apply past precedent to new cases and often set precedents when necessary. A decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court concerning a law passed by Congress and signed by the president solidifies the law’s constitutionality.
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