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US Government and Politics

Historical Context

US Declared Independence from England in 1776.

The First government of the US established the
Articles of Confederation which gave almost no
power to a central government

The most important power it withheld was the

ability to tax. The federal gov't could not levy
taxes, only states' governments could do that.

It was not until 1787 that the Constitution was


Checks and Balances Established

Three branches of government, intended so that

none would have more power than the other

The constitution made the federal government

stronger than the Articles of Confederation, but
people were still very leery of the government
having too much power

The three branches of the government are:

Legislative, Judicial, and Executive.

Checks and Balances Established

Legislative: MAKES the laws

Executive: EXECUTES the laws

Judicial: INTERPRETS the laws.

Legislative Branch

Article 1
Senators and representatives elected by State (or
Has to do with making and passing laws.
Creates 2 branches of Congress (bicameral) as a

Senate: 2 representatives from each state

House of Representatives: Based on state's


**NOTE Slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person

Legislative Branch

Even within the Legislative Branch there are checks

and balances.

Senate ratifies treaties and approves presidential


House initiates revenue-raising bills

House impeaches president, Senate votes to

remove him or her

Legislative Branch

Makes laws (bills)

Levies and collects taxes

Prints currency

Declares war

Passes the budget

Legislative branch

How it balances the other:

Congress can remove the president,

Senate confirms the president's nominees to the

Supreme Court

Executive Branch

Article 2

President elected by the electoral college

President and VP elected

Cabinet members nominated by Pres, confirmed by

US Senate

Cabinet advises the President, meets weekly.

Includes the heads of 15 executive departments
(e.g.,Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education,
Treasury, Homeland Security, Energy)

Executive branch

How it balances the others

President can veto laws from Congress

President appoints justices of the Supreme Court

Judicial Branch

Justices appointed by President for life (or until

(but Congress established lower courtsi.e., courts
of appeals, district courts, etc.)

Judicial Branch

How it balances the others

Justices can overturn unconstitutional laws

Bill of Rights

Article 5 of the Constitution provides for

amendments, the first 10 were put there as soon as
the Constitution was established to ensure the
liberties of the people of the US.
freedoms not explicitly indicated in the main body
of the Constitution

freedom of religion, speech, a free press, and free assembly; the right to
bear arms; freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom
from warrants issued without probable cause; indictment by a grand
jury for any capital or "infamous crime"; guarantee of a speedy, public
trial with an impartial jury; and prohibition of double jeopardy. In
addition,reserves all powers not specifically granted to the federal
government to the people or the States.

US Elections

Most states use primaries to choose candidates for each

party (only Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota and Maine use

Primaries start a year before the election. They are

being held right now.

After the candidates are chosen, the general election

People in the states vote for president, but the electoral
college will actually vote for the President

Usually whatever is the majority, all the people in the

electoral college representing that state will vote for the
same candidate