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US Government

Glossary and Terms

Amendment - An amendment is an addition or change to the U.S. Constitution. It must be ratified by three-fourths of the U.S. States. There are currently twenty-seven amendments to the Constitution.

Articles of Confederation - A document that served as the first Constitution of the United States. It was ratified by the thirteen original states in 1781.

Bill - A law that has been proposed to Congress, but has not yet been passed.

Bill of Rights - The first ten amendments to the Constitution which guarantee a number of personal freedoms.

Bipartisanship - This is when two opposing political parties (Ex. Democrats and Republicans) work together to find common ground and a compromise.

Bureaucracy - The various divisions and departments that actually run a large government.

Cabinet - A group of people that work for and advise the president. The members include the vice president and the heads of the 15 executive departments (for example the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Treasury).

Capitalism - An economic system where trade and industry are owned and controlled by private citizens for profit.

Citizen - A recognized legal member of a country.

Civil Rights - Rights guaranteed to all citizens of a country without discrimination.

Checks and Balances - A system of government that keeps any one branch of government from becoming too powerful.

Congress - The Legislative Branch of the U.S. Government which includes the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Constitution - A document that is the highest law in the land and defines the U.S. federal government. It includes seven articles and twenty-seven amendments.

Delegate - A person who is designated to represent a group of people.

Democracy - A system of government where the power rests with the people. The people either rule directly or through representatives who are elected by the people.

Electoral College - The institution that elects the President of the United States. Each state gets a certain number of electoral votes based on the population of the state.

Executive Branch - The branch of government headed up by the president. It includes the president, vice-president, and 15 main executive departments.

House of Representatives - A group of elected officials that makes up half of the Legislative Branch of government. The number of representatives from each state is determined by population. There are 435 total members.

Impeachment - The formal process of removing someone from political office.

Judicial Branch - The branch of government that includes the courts and judges. The highest court in the Judicial Branch is the Supreme Court.

Jury - A group of people who hear a court case and determine the verdict.

Law - A rule that is enforced by the government.

Legislative Branch - The branch of government that includes the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Lobbyist - A person who tries to influence the government on behalf of a special interest group.

Political Party - An organization of people with similar political goals and beliefs.

President - The head of the Executive Branch of government. The primary leader of the U.S. government.

Senate - A group of elected officials that makes up half of the Legislative Branch of government. There are two Senators per state for a total of 100 Senators.

Supreme Court - The highest court in the Judicial Branch. There are currently 9 Supreme Court justices.

Tax - A fee charged by the government on citizens and businesses.

Term Limits - A legal limit on how long an elected official may serve in an office. For example, the president can only serve two terms of four years each.

Veto - The power of the president to reject a bill. The veto may be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.

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
Sonia Sotomayor
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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