The Us Constitution defines a federal systems of government in which certain powers are delegated to the national government; other powers fall to the states. The national government consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches that are designed to check and balance one another; all are interrelated and overlapping, yet each is quite distinct.
The American Constitution is based on the doctrine of the separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judiciary. The main text of the Constitution comprises seven articles.
Article I vests all legislative powers in the Congress- the House of Representatives and the Senate. Among those powers are the right to levy taxes, borrow money, regulate interstate commerce, provide for military forces, declare war, and determine member seating and rules of procedure. The House initiates impeachment proceedings, and the Senate adjudicates them.
Article II vests executive power in the president. The president’s formal responsibilities include those of chief executive, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and treaty maker (two-thirds of the Senate must concur). The powers of appointment of the president are vast but are subjected to the “advice and consent” (majority approval) of the Senate (Article II, section 2). The informal responsibilities of the president have grown to embrace political leadership, including proposing legislation to Congress.
Article III places judicial power in the hands of the courts. The Constitution is interpreted by the courts, and the Supreme Court of the United States is the final court of appeal from the state and lower federal courts. The power of Us courts to rule on the constitutionality of laws is known as judicial review. Few courts in the world have that extraordinary power, which is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.
The Presidency, Congress and the Courts were given limited and specific powers; and a series of checks and balances, whereby each branch of government has certain authority over the others, were also included to make sure these powers were not abused. Government power was further limited by means of a dual system of government, in which the federal government was only given the powers and responsibilities to deal with problems facing the nation as a whole (foreign affairs, trade, control of the army and navy, ets.). The remaining responsibilities and duties of government were reserved to the individual state governments. The governments of the 50 states have structures closely paralleling those of the federal government. Each state has a governor, a legislature, and a judiciary. Each state has its own constitution.
Since the Constitution was ratified in 1788, there have been 26 amendments to it. The first 10, known as the Bill of Rights, established a number of individual liberties. Among them are the freedom of religion, speech, and the press, the right of peaceful assembly, and the right to petition the government to correct wrongs. Other right guarded the citizens against unreasonable searches, arrests, and seizures of property, and established a system of justice guaranteeing orderly procedures.
Notable among the other amendments are the 13th, 14th, and 15th, which abolished slavery and declared former slaves citizens with the right to vote; the 17th, which provided for the direct election of US senators; and the 19th, which effected women’s suffrage.
The executive branch of the government is headed by the President, who must be a natural-born citizen of the United States, at least 35 years old, and a resident of the country for at least 14 years. The formal responsibilities of the President include those of chief executive, treaty maker, Commander-in-Chief of the army, and head of state. In practice, they have grown to include drafting legislation, formulating foreign policy, personal diplomacy, and leadership of his political party.
The President is elected for a term of four years and can only be reelected for one more term (22nd amendment – adopted after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four successive terms). The President was originally intended to be little more than a ceremonial Head of State, as well as Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, but the federal governments increasing involvement in the nations economic life and its prominent role in the international affairs, where secrecy and speed are often essential, has increased the importance of the Presidency over Congress.
The Presidential elections in the USA are held in two stages.The President is elected on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November of a leap year and takes office at noon on January 20. The President is not elected directly, but by an Electoral College. The electors who actually choose the President are now completely pledged in advance to one person and their names have almost entirely disappeared from the ballot papers to be replaced by the names of the candidates themselves. The candidates who win the most votes within a state receive all its Electoral College votes, no matter how small the majority.
The members of the Presidents Cabinet – the secretaries of State, Treasure, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, and Veterans Affairs and the attorney general – are appointed by the President with the approval of the Senate; they are described in the 25th Amendment as «the principal officers of the executive departments» , but much power has come to be exercised by presidential aides who are not in the Cabinet. Thus, the Presidents Executive Office includes the Office of Management and Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the National Security Council.
The President now proposes a full legislative program to Congress, although the President, the Cabinet and staff are not, and cannot be, members of Congress. This means that the various bills must be introduced into the House of Representatives or Senate by their members. The President is consequently completely powerless when faced by an uncooperative Congress. Given also the difficulties in ensuring that the laws passed are effectively implemented by the federal bureaucracy, it has been said that the Presidents only real power is the power to persuade.