GED Social Studies Practice Test: United States Government 3- Separation of Powers

Separation of Powers

After the American colonies rebelled and won independence from England, they never wanted to be ruled by a king again, A king, like a president, is the executive of a country. The founding fathers felt that king’s had too much power and didn’t act in the best interest of the people. Therefore, in making the United States Constitution, the founding fathers deliberately made it so that the executive (president) did not have too much power. Instead, the president would have to share their power with two other branches of the federal government: the Legislative and Judicial. This is known as the “separation of powers.”

Executive (President) Legislative (Congress) Judicial (Courts)
  • Enforces Laws
  • Commander in Chief of armed forces
  • Conducts foreign policy
  • Recommends laws to congress
  • Signs congressional bills into law
  • Writes the laws
  • Controls the money
  • Approves foreign treaties
  • Declares War
  • Interprets the U.S Constitution
  • Can void laws by deeming them unconstitutional
  • Reviews lower court decisions

Checks and Balances

Each branch of the federal government has different powers and abilities. This was done on purpose so that no one branch could become too powerful. The founding fathers clearly feared tyrant kings and dictators. Directly linked to the separation of powers is something known as Checks and Balances within government. The different branches are meant to put each other in check when one gets out of line, thus keeping a balance of power. It’s almost like a safety mechanism built into the government.

checks_balances

Example of Checks and Balances
For example, let’s assume that congress (Legislative Branch) wants to pass a law that the president does not like. The president can check the power of congress by using something called a veto. This gives the president the power to stop laws passed by congress. To check means to stop the actions of the opposing side. In this case the president showed that he/she has more power. However, Congress can then check the president’s veto if they can get even more congressional members to vote in favor of the law. In this scenario, there is clearly a balance of power as both sides can check the actions of the other. Furthermore, the Judicial Branch can check both sides by claiming that the law does not follow the U.S. Constitution. Any law that does not follow the U.S. Constitution must be terminated.

Power Within Government is Shared & Balanced

Power Within Government is Shared & Balanced

In the scenario just presented it could clearly be seen that passing a law can be a complicated process if all branches of government do not agree. This could make the law making process very long and frustrating. In the end, the law may never get passed. This process, however, is what makes the United States government stable. It prevents any one interest or branch of government from gaining too much control over the laws of the United States.

Look at How They Check Each Other

Look at How They Check Each Other

Checks and Balances Keep the U.S. Government Stable

Checks and Balances Keep the U.S. Government Stable

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