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History >> US Government

US Government

Checks and Balances

The Constitution created three separate branches of the government: the Legislative Branch (Congress), the Executive Branch (President), and the Judicial Branch (Supreme Court). In order to make sure that one branch didn't become too powerful, the Constitution has "checks and balances" that enable each branch to keep the others in line.

Separation of Powers

The powers of the government are "balanced" between the three branches. Each branch has different powers. For example, the Congress makes laws, sets the budget, and declares war. The President appoints judges, is Commander in Chief of the military, and can grant pardons. Finally, the Supreme Court interprets the law and can declare a law unconstitutional.

Checks on each of the Branches

Each branch has "checks" on it from the other branches that are meant to keep the branch from becoming too powerful.
Seal of the United States Congress
Seal of the
United States Congress

The Congress

The president can check the Congress by vetoing a bill. When the president veto's a bill it has to go back to Congress and must be passed by a two-thirds majority in order to become a law. The Executive Branch also has some presence in the Senate as the vice-president is considered president of the Senate. The vice-president becomes the deciding vote in the case of a tie in the Senate.

The Supreme Court can check the Congress by declaring a law unconstitutional. This check isn't actually part of the Constitution, but is considered a part of the law since the landmark ruling of Marbury V. Madison in 1803.

Seal of the
President of the United States

The President

The Congress can check the power of the president a number of ways. The first way is through impeachment where the Congress votes to have the president removed from office. The next way is through "advice and consent." While the president can appoint judges and other officials, the Congress must approve of them.

The Supreme Court can check the president by declaring executive orders as unconstitutional.

Seal of the
United States Supreme Court
The Courts

The Congress can check the power of the courts through impeachment. It can vote to remove judges from office. Many more judges have been impeached than presidents.

The president checks the power of the courts by appointing new judges. The power of the Supreme Court can swing greatly on a single appointment. The Congress has a part in this check as well because they must approve the president's appointment.

Power of the States and People

The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution says that the powers of the United States Government are limited to only those stated in the Constitution. Any remaining powers are kept by the States and the people. This allows the States and the people to keep the power of the federal government in check through the Constitution.

Interesting Facts about the Checks and Balances of the U.S. Government Activities To learn more about the United States government:

Branches of Government
Executive Branch
President's Cabinet
US Presidents

Legislative Branch
House of Representatives
How Laws are Made

Judicial Branch
Landmark Cases
Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
John Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
United States Constitution
The Constitution
Bill of Rights
Other Constitutional Amendments
First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights

Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office

Works Cited

History >> US Government

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