The Basics of a Three Branch Government System

The Basics of a Three Branch Government System

( – It’s tempting to think of the government as a single, cohesive structure. In reality, it actually comprises three separate branches; the legislative, the executive, and the judicial, each with its own set of responsibilities.

This framework ensures separation of powers, which means no single individual or organization can ever hold too much power in one country or state. This is the system we use to maintain effective leadership in America. Many other nations around the world do the same. It’s worth taking a closer look to learn more about the ways in which this arrangement influences our lives.

The Legislative Branch

In America, Congress is the legislative branch of government. The Senate and House of Representatives have equal, if different, roles in making up the legislative branch. The public elects members of Congress directly.

As the name suggests, the chief task of the legislative branch is writing laws. Either house of Congress can introduce a bill, but the idea for the bill can come from anyone, even a regular citizen. Once both houses approve a version of it, the bill goes to the president (as head of the executive) to be signed into law (or vetoed).

Many Western countries have two houses of parliament, though not all divide power equally between the two as America does.

The Executive Branch

The executive branch takes different forms in different countries. In America, our president is its leader, and it also comprises the vice president, the cabinet, and the various departments and agencies of the federal government. Governors head executive branches at the state level.

As noted above, the president has the power of veto over bills the legislative branch introduces. While Congress can overturn a presidential veto with a two-thirds majority, executive approval is generally necessary before bills become laws.

The president can effect change on the ground directly with executive orders. These do not require Congressional approval. The president is also commander-in-chief of the military.

It should be noted that not every country has as strong an executive branch as America. In the UK, for example, executive functions are shared by the prime minister (who is also head of the legislative branch) and the monarch (who, as an unelected figurehead, has little real power).

The Judicial Branch

The court system makes up the judicial branch, with the Supreme Court at its head. The judicial branch in America can set aside laws it deems unconstitutional, giving it considerable power over the other two branches.

Also, the courts have the job of interpreting legislation when it arises at trial. When a court enforces a law in a certain way in one case, they are obliged to consider this ruling in similar subsequent cases. This is called legal precedent.

In some countries, the judiciary elects its own senior figures. In America, however, presidents choose the judges that sit on the Supreme Court. This is perhaps the largest issue in the discussion around the separation of powers in America, as critics feel this system politicizes the courts inappropriately.

The Three-Branch System in 2020

Ever since the Founding Fathers signed our Constitution into law, separation of powers has been a fundamental principle of our constitutional republic. While we have encountered difficult periods, the three-branch government framework has always ensured effective representation for the American people.

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