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Overview of Federal Government‚Äč

The United States federal government has three branches – legislative, judicial, and executive – which carry out governmental power and functions. The United States Constitution created the basic structure for this three-branch system. The Constitution outlines the roles for each branch of government. 

  • The executive branch of the government is responsible for enforcing the laws of the land. The president, vice president, department heads (cabinet members), and heads of independent agencies carry out this mission.
  • Article I of the Constitution establishes the legislative or law-making branch of government. It has a two-branch Congress – the Senate and the House of Representatives.
  • Courts decide arguments about the meaning of laws and how they are applied. They also decide if laws violate the Constitution – this is known as judicial review, and it is how federal courts, such as the Supreme Court provide checks and balances on the legislative and executive branches.

Under the system of separation of powers, each of these branches has some authority to act on its own, some authority to regulate the other two branches, and some of its own authority regulated by the other branches. This system of checks and balances ensures that no one branch becomes too powerful. In addition, the powers of the federal government as a whole are limited by the Constitution which leaves a great deal of authority to the individual states.

From CREDO Reference: Federal Government