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American Government and Separation of Powers Essay


Separation of Powers

The constitution of the United States is considered one of the most stable in the world because it provides a system of checks and balances. This means that no arm of government in the United States is superior to the other.

Montesquieu is one of the scholars behind the idea of separation of powers. He feels that one arm of government, particularly the executive, can abuse its powers in case it is given the power to act unilaterally. John Locke is a classical scholar who advocates for separation of powers and the establishment of the system of checks and balances.

However, Thomas Hobbes opposes the idea because he is of the view that inclusion of other arms of government in making sensitive decisions, such as those related to foreign policy, is very dangerous. Under the separation of powers and the system of check and balances, the congress has the major role to play, which is to legislate laws for the government. In fact, the US constitution provides that the congress should not delegate law-making role to any other arm of government.

In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in a case involving Clinton and the City of New York (Clinton v. City of New York) that the line of veto could not be delegated to the head of state. In an earlier case involving Wayman and Southland (Wayman v. Southland), the Supreme Court established that the congress had erroneously delegated the legislative role to the judiciary (Welch 16).

The constitution provides that the executive power be vested in the president of the United States of America. In this regard, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and the head of government. Apart from being the commander in chief, the head of state has the power to appoint government officials and to enter into treaties that are beneficial to the people of the United States.

The chief justice is the head of the judiciary. The judicial arm of government has the major role of deciding cases and offering arbitration on controversial issues that might affect the normal functioning of the government.

The system of checks and balances

As earlier noted, the system of checks and balances exists to ensure that one arm of government does not abuse its powers. The legislature ensures that it makes laws, which are to be implemented by the executive arm. Moreover, it enacts laws related to taxation implying that the executive cannot engage in taxation without the approval of the legislature. The legislature may veto the president’s decision to declare war since it has the sole power to declare war.

It also checks on the powers of the judiciary because it may investigate the conduct of the judge, including the conduct of the Supreme Court judge. The executive on the other hand may veto the laws that the legislature makes. Regarding the emergency powers, only the president has the power to executive prerogative powers. The head of state appoints judges of the Supreme Court, as well as other judges who are the members of the judiciary. The judiciary has the power of determining the laws that the congress intends to utilize.

State agencies cannot apply repressive laws because the judiciary interprets the laws that must be used in arresting suspects, giving evidence, and handling of prisoners. The three arms of government operate independently, but they are related in many ways. While the president has the power to appoint the judges, the same judges must be approved by the legislature. The judges in turn have the powers to interpret the laws that apply to all state officers, including the president and the legislators (Welch 24).

Law Making Process

The following diagram shows how a bill becomes a law in the United States of America.

The diagram shows how a bill becomes a law in the US.

As shown in the diagram, the idea is first introduced in the house when the legislator sends it to the house clerk. The house clerk on his or her part assigns a number and a title to the bill. The bill undergoes the first reading whereby it is redirected to the suitable house team. The committee is charged with the responsibility of analyzing the bill in detail whereby it either approves it or censures the bill.

When the house team notes that the bill is imprudent, it presents it to the house prematurely. The bill is rejected instantaneously when presented without review. If the committee feels that the bill is worthwhile, it invites experts and other interested members of the public to offer their views. The house committee members are expected to cast their ballot after discussing the bill in detail and suggesting some changes based on the professional advice.

If a majority of the house committee members vote for the bill, it is returned to the floor of the house for further debate. The bill goes through the second reading whereby the clerk of the house reads the bill in detail. At the second reading, members of parliament offer their suggestions. At this point, amendments would be made. In the House of Representatives, time is always limited by a cloture rule.

However, the rule does not apply in the senate. In the senate, sixty members should approve the bill. The bill goes through the third reading if it survives the rigorous process in the second reading. No amendments are made in the third reading. The bill is voted for whereby a simple majority is needed to take it to the next stage. When the bill passes the third reading and subsequent voting process, it is taken to the other house of congress (Zander 19).

In the other house, members might choose to crush it, approve it, or suggest some minor changes to the bill. The bill dies when it is defeated in the other house. The bill is sent to the president who is charged with a constitutional responsibility to append his or her signature. The bill becomes law when the president signs it. If the head of state refuses to sign the bill, it is taken back to the house for further amendment. However, the head of state must give his or her reasons for refusing to sign the bill.

The clerk will read out the reasons for refusal and further debates would be held. If the two houses approve the bill through a two third majority vote, the decision of the president is overridden and the bill becomes law without the president’s signature. The bill becomes law automatically when the president retains it for over ten days. Similarly, the congress terminates the bill when it adjourns for ten days when the bill is at the presidential assent stage. This indirect rejection is usually referred to as pocket veto.

Works Cited

Welch, Susan. Understanding American Government. Boston, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2010. Print.

Zander, Michael. The Law-Making Process. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2019, November 26). American Government and Separation of Powers. Retrieved from https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-government-2/

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"American Government and Separation of Powers." IvyPanda, 26 Nov. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/american-government-2/.

1. IvyPanda. "American Government and Separation of Powers." November 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-government-2/.


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IvyPanda. 2019. "American Government and Separation of Powers." November 26, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/american-government-2/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'American Government and Separation of Powers'. 26 November.

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