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Three Branches of Government

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In 1787 leaders of the states gathered to write the Constitution –a set of principles that told how the new nation would be governed. The federal convention convened in the states house (Independence Hall) in Philadelphia on May 14, 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation. Through discussion and debate it became clear by Mid-June that, rather than amend the existing Articles, the convention would draft an entirely new frame of government. All through the summer, in closed sessions, the delegates debated, and redrafted the articles of the New Constitution. Among the chief points at issue were how much power to allow the central government, how many representative in congress to allow each state and how these representatives should be elected. Directly by the people or by the state legislators. The leaders of the state wanted a strong and fair national government. But they also wanted to protect individual freedoms and prevent the government from abusing its power.

They believed they could do this by having three separate branches of government: The Executive, The Legislative and The Judicial. This separation is described in the first three articles, or sections of the constitution. The legislative branch is made up of two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives. The most important duty of the legislative branch is to make Laws. Laws are written, discussed and voted on in congress. There are 100 senators in the senate, two from each state. Senators are elected by their states and serve six year terms. The Vice President of the U.S is considered the head of the Senate, but does not vote in the senate unless there is a tie. The Senate approves nominations made by the president to the cabinet, Federal courts and other posts. The Senate must ratify all treaties by a two-thirds vote.

There are 435 Representatives in the House of Representatives. The number of representatives each state gets is based on its population. For example, California has many more representatives than Rhode Island. When Census figures determine that the population of a state has changed significantly, the number of representatives in that state may shift proportionately. Representatives are elected by their states and serve two year term. The speaker of the house, elected by the representatives, is considered the head of the house. The legislative branch as a whole is charged with passing the nations law and allocating funds for the running of the federal government and providing assistance to 50 U.S. States. The President is the head of the Executive Branch, which makes laws official. The President is elected by the entire country and serves a four year term.

The President approves and carries out laws passed by the legislative branch. He also appoints or removes cabinet members and officials. He negotiates treaties, and acts as head of state and commander in chief of the Armed Forces. This branch also includes the Vice President and other officials, such as members of the cabinet. The cabinet is made up of the heads of the 15 major departments of the government. The cabinet gives advice to the President about important matters. The Judicial Branch oversees the court system of the U.S. Through court cases, the judicial branch explains the meaning of the constitution and the laws passed by congress. The judicial branch consists of the United States Supreme court and lower courts. Its primary function is to hear cases that challenge legislation or require Interpretation of that legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court has nine Justice who are chosen by the President, confirmed by the senate and have no lifetime appointment.

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