Ancient America: The Influences of Greece and Rome on the Political and Ideological Development of the United States
The current federal government of the United States is divided into three separate branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. This division provides a separation of powers, which allows for a system of checks and balances. This system of checks and balances is meant to ensure that no one branch of the government—nor one individual—obtains too much power.
The Legislative Branch
The current Legislative branch is comprised of Congress, which is then divided into the Senate and the House of Representatives. “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives” (US Const. Art. I, Sec. 1). Article I, Section 8 outlines the powers of Congress, providing both the Senate and the House of Representatives the authority to make laws and to declare war.
100 senators, two from each state, serve a term of six years in the Senate. Each senator is elected by the American people whom she or he will represent. There are three classes of senators. According to the Constitution, “The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth year, so that one third may be chosen every second year” (Art. I, Sec. 3). Each senator must be 30 years old, have had United States citizenship for a minimum of 9 years, and must be a resident of the state which he or she will represent.
The House of Representatives
There is a maximum total of 435 members of the House of Representatives, each elected by the American people to serve a two-year term. The number of representatives from each state depends on the state’s population. Each representative must be 25 years old, a United States citizen for a minimum of 7 years, and a resident of the state which he or she will represent. There are five separate delegates who represent the District of Columbia, Guam, American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Virgin Islands. Puerto Rico is represented in the House by a resident commissioner.
The Executive Branch
“The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” (US Const. Art. II, Sec. 1). Alongside the President of the United States, the current executive branch is comprised of the Vice President, the Cabinet, and the large administrative bodies that have grown up under each member of the Cabinet.
The President is the Commander in Chief of the United States Army; he or she has the authority to make treaties, appoint ambassadors, and nominate “public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the Supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States” (US Const. Art. II, Sec. 2). The current President is allowed to serve a maximum of eight years in office, must be thirty-five years old, and be a natural born United States citizen.
The Vice President
The Vice President assumes the office of the presidency if the current President is unable to carry out his or her term. The Vice President also serves as the President of the Senate, and casts his vote in the Senate in the case of tie.
The President selects the members of his or her Cabinet. Each member serves as an advisor to the presidency. A President’s Cabinet is comprised of the Vice President, the heads of the 15 executive departments, and other government officials of high rank.
The Judicial Branch
“The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish” (US Const. Art. III, Sec. 1). The judicial branch holds the power to interpret the meaning of the laws and to decide if certain laws are or are not constitutional. The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. It is comprised of nine members, a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Each member of the Supreme Court serves a life term. In addition to the Supreme Court, the Constitution allows Congress to formulate “inferior courts,” which are today referred to as federal courts.
Checks and Balances
While the President of the United States is able to appoint the members of his or her Cabinet, Congress holds the authority to veto any of those nominations. If necessary, Congress is also able to remove the current President from the presidential office. In turn, the President is able to veto the laws that Congress votes to pass. With respect to the judicial branch, whomever the President nominates to be the justices of the Supreme Court must be agreed upon by the Senate.