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The U.S. Constitution: Checks & Balances

1381 words - 6 pages

The U.S. Constitution is the foundation of American governance. Since its creation in 1878, the Constitution remains as the foundation of governance for the Republic and stands as the oldest living Constitution in the world. To prevent a tyranny of the majority will – or of one part of governance – it became necessary to ensure the several branches of government remained separate. To ensure that one of these branches did not trump the other branches, the Founders crafted – within the Constitution – a set of checks and balances. Separating powers, with checks and balances, made the U.S. government unique when it emerged in 1787. The Constitution describes a system of checks and balances and sets up a separation of powers.

The Constitution separates the three branches of governance through the first three articles. Article I applies to the Legislative Branch of government, Article II refers to the Executive Branch of government, and Article III concerns the Judicial Branch of government (Unit 1A, 14). The Constitution enumerates the duties and responsibilities of the respective branches of government in the relevant Constitutional articles. Article I states, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States” (Constitution, Article I Section 1). This separates the legislative power from the other two branches as Congress – alone – holds all legislative powers. Article II states, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” (Constitution, Article II Section 1). Thus, the Executive branch – previously denied legislative powers – finds itself vested with the executive power exclusively. As “the” is a definite article, only the Executive branch holds the aforementioned power. Article III says, “The judicial power of the United States, shall be bested in one supreme Court and such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish” (Constitution, Article III Section 1). This gives the judicial power to the Supreme Court – but also allows the Congress to appoint lower courts under the Supreme Court. This does not, however, give Congress judicial authority – it simply allows Congress to create lower courts to support the Supreme Court as creation of courts would need laws and Congress has legislative power. In the aforementioned manner, the Constitution creates a separation of powers in the American government.

The Constitution gives the three branches of government an arrangement of checks and balances – through its enumeration of the branches and their related duties and responsibilities. According to Mount, the Legislative branch has, inter alia, power of impeachment of the President of the United States – through the House of Representatives. The Legislative branch also has power to conduct the trial of an impeached President in the Senate. These powers of impeachment and trial also extend to the Judicial branch – the...

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