- Background Of The US Government
- Democratic Principles
- Individual Rights - Natural Rights
- Individual Rights - Bill of Rights
- United States Government - Federal, State and Local Government
- United States Government - Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches
- United States Government - Separation of Powers
- Formation of Political Parties- Federalists and Anti-Federalists
- Elections and Civic Responsibilities
- American Foreign Policy Since 9/11
GED Social Studies Practice Test: United States Government – Executive, Legislative and Judicial Branches
The Federal Government
The federal government is broken down into three branches: (1) Executive, (2) Legislative, and (3) Judicial.
The executive branch is the president. Currently, in 2016, President Obama is the executive of the United States. He is the single leader that Americans look to for unity and direction. Within the executive branch, the president also has many departments he controls. These include the Department of Defense, the Treasury Department, the Department of Transportation, etc.
Due to the president only being one person, he/she could not possibly have enough time and energy to tend to the needs of the many citizens throughout the United States, which is a very large country with over three hundred million people. For instance, the president would not be able to effectively manage the needs and wants of citizens living in Alabama, while trying to simultaneously respond to the needs of citizens living in Nebraska, not to mention the needs of citizens living in the other forty-eight states. Simply put, the president would be too out of touch with the citizens.
How to solve the problem?
When creating the U.S. Constitution, the founding fathers wanted citizens from every corner of the United States to have a voice in the federal government when important decisions were being made in Washington, D.C. Now it wouldn’t be possible for millions of Americans to go to Washington, D.C. every time a decision had to be made, so instead they send people on their behalf. Americans send people to the federal capital to represent them. These representatives make up the Legislative Branch of the federal government. They even have their own offices and staff while there in the capital. The Legislative Branch is also known as Congress and they meet at the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
Congress is also broken up into two separate parts: (1) the Senate, and (2) the House of Representatives.
The Senate is made up of two representatives from each state. They are called senators. In multiplying the number states (fifty) by the number of senators from each state (two), the total number of senators is one hundred. The priority of each senator in making laws at the Capitol Building is to do what’s in the best interest of the citizens of their state. For example, if a new federal law was proposed to place a new tax on tourists who travel outside of their home state to visit other areas of the country, then the result would be less people wanting to travel to other states. Simply put, it would cost Americans more money to travel, thus serving as a hinderance to their desire to visit other places. In looking at the bigger picture, the tourist industry would stand to lose revenue.
In discussing whether or not they should actually make this tax a new law, the two senators from North Dakota may not care either way because the economy of their state does not depend on tourism. The two senators from Florida, however, would be overwhelmingly opposed to the law as tourism plays a very large role in the economy of Florida. Every year millions of Americans and people from around the world flock to Florida to vacation, enjoying the warm sun and fancy beaches. If a law like this would be passed, there’s a good chance that those two Florida senators would not be reelected by the citizens of the state. Florida’s citizens would be very upset that their elected senators in congress did not protect the tourist industry.
50 States X 2 Senators Each = 100 Senators
The House of Representatives
The main problem with only having two senators from each state is basically that there’re only two of them. Even at the state level, only two people couldn’t possibly come to know millions of their citizens and effectively representative them at the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Remember, these politicians are supposed to represent the citizens who vote them into office. In response to this, the citizens of each state elect even more people to represent them at the Capitol Building. These representatives are called the House of Representatives. They’re known as congressmen or congresswomen and they come from all over each state throughout the country. In total, there are currently 435 members. Rather than each state getting equal representation, like in the senate, the House of Representatives is based on population. Larger states send more representative to the house, while smaller states send less.
The Judicial Branch
The Judicial Branch is the federal court system. They hear cases involving federal laws and those relating to constitutional violations. Part of this branch is the Supreme Court, the highest court in the United States. Currently there are nine justices (judges) on the Supreme Court. Its members are nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. They hold their positions for life (“during good behavior”), thus insulating them from political influences.
The Court has discretion to decide the cases it wants to hear. Generally, it will only hear cases that involve interpretation of the Constitution.
So your case has been decided by the Supreme Court, but it’s ruled against you. What can you do? NOTHING. The Supreme Court is the final “say-so” on the Constitution. Congress could try to pass a constitutional amendment that would reverse or address the Supreme Court’s ruling, but this would be almost impossible to achieve. The bottom line: what the Supreme Court says, goes.