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The US model of governance devolves governing power to three government branches namely the legislature, judiciary and executive, each of which is distinct and separate from the others and performs checks and balances on the other two(Bardes, Shelley & Schmidt, 85).
Each government branch performs the function of checking on the others’ potential excesses such that the powers granted to one branch is carefully balanced by the other two. This article will explore on the constitutional provisions that allow the system to self check and prevent any of the branches from assuming supreme authority and power.
Congress makes up the legislature and has the main function of making laws. The legislature checks on the executive by approving departmental appointments, treaties, ambassadorial appointments and the replacing or appointing the vice president should the need arise. Congress in addition holds powers to override presidential vetoes, declare war, originate and try impeachment cases and select a president and vice-president in cases of absence of majority electoral votes.
The legislature checks judicial powers by holding powers to approve federal judges, begin and try in impeachment proceedings (on both the executive and judiciary), initiate constitution amendments, set courts lesser than the Supreme Court and setting courts’ jurisdiction.
The legislature can alter the Supreme Court’s size should need arise. The legislature is bicameral and as such, possesses the ability to self-check. The legislature ensures that bills are passed by both congress houses, bills originate from the house and that neither house adjoins for a period exceeding three days without seeking consent from the others. For transparency it ensures that house journals are published.
The executive regulates the legislature by using veto power, calling Congress emergency sessions, may force both houses on adjournment should they fail to agree on adjournment and receding appointments it does not agree with. The executive holds the powers of commander in chief and as such, congress has to consult with it before declaring war.
It in addition regulates judiciary powers by appointing judges and having powers to pardon some cases. The cabinet and the vice- president can vote for the president’s removal if the president is seen as unable to properly discharge presidential duties, this way, the executive self-checks.
The judiciary checks the legislature by determining what laws the Congress are to apply to various cases, what laws are unconstitutional and determines how laws are to be interpreted. During impeachments, the chief justice acts as the senate’s president and hence all the branches are represented.
Effectiveness of the system
The system acts very effectively since all functions of each government branch are monitored by the other branches and the very important decisions involve more than one government branch. For instance, in situations where war may be necessary congress may declare war but not without consultations from the executive which heads the military. Even with each branch having different roles to play, the system works efficiently as the three have to always work together in maintaining order and running the government.
The president, as the head of the executive, often seems more powerful than the other branches of government. Realistically though, no branch of the government holds more power and control over the others. A decision made by any of the branches that may not be agreeable by the other branches can be overturned. The three branches may perform different functions in the government but none of those functions is performed independently.
Bardes, Barbara, Shelley, Mack and Schmidt Steffen. American Government and Politics Today 2008: The Essentials. Belmont, CA: Cengage learning, 2009.