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How to Understand the 3 Branches of Government

To make sure that no ruling body has absolute power, the Constitution splits government into three branches. Understand both their independent duties as well as their interactions.


  • Step 1: Understand the legislative branch Become familiar with the legislative branch. Congress is split into the Senate and House of Representatives: these 2 bodies are responsible for writing and passing bills.
  • TIP: Every state has 2 senators, while the number of members per state in the House of Representatives is based on state population.
  • Step 2: Recognize the executive powers Recognize the powers of the executive branch, which includes the President, Vice President, and Cabinet. In addition to having veto power on laws passed by Congress, the President is head of the military and responsible for making treaties with foreign countries. However, all treaties and declarations of war must be approved by Congress.
  • Step 3: Know the judicial branch's duties Review the function of the judicial branch, America's federal court system. The Supreme Court in charge of establishing lower federal courts, and settling disputes over the application of federal laws to make sure all laws are constitutional. The 9 justices of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President but must be approved by Congress.
  • TIP: All Supreme Court justices serve on the Court for life unless they resign, retire, or are removed by Congress.
  • Step 4: Check your checks and balances Recognize how the branches interact with and depend on each other. Each branch can check the power of the other branches so that power is distributed evenly, a system known as 'checks and balances'. The separation of power as well as this system of checks and balances is what makes our country run smoothly.
  • FACT: Congress has denied the President's request to declare war only twice, once in 1815 and once in 1999.

You Will Need

  • Legislative branch
  • Executive branch
  • Judicial branch
  • Checks and balances

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