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The United States government is divided into three separate branches: legislative, executive, and judicial. This was designed so that the power could not be concentrated in the hands of the few. In order to ensure that the power remained divided, a system of checks and balances was put into place.

rotating gif.gifFor more on checks and balances and federalism, see Massachusetts United States Government 3.3


The Legislative branch has the following checks and balances:
  • On the Judicial branch:
    • Senate approves justices
      Obama_Jobs_Speech_to_Joint_Session_of_Congress.jpg
      President Obama Gives Speech to Congress, 2011
    • The House can impeach justices
    • The Senate tries impeached justices
    • Congress can create amendments
    • Congress can make lower courts
    • Congress can set jurisdiction for courts
    • Congress can alter the size of the Supreme Court
  • On the Executive branch:
    • House can impeach Presidents
    • Senate tries impeached Presidents
    • If there is no electoral majority, the House chooses the President and the Senate chooses the Vice President
    • Congress can override a Presidential veto with a 2/3 vote in the House and Senate
    • Senate approves departmental appointments, treaties, and ambassadors
    • Congress has to approve replacements to the Vice President
    • Congress declares war
    • Congress can tax
    • The President is required to make "State of the Union" addresses
  • On the Legislative branch:
    • The two different houses of Congress also have checks and balances on each other
      Supreme_Court_US_2010.jpg
      The Supreme Court Justices, 2010
    • Bills must be passed by each house before becoming law
    • Revenue bills must start in the House
    • There has to be consent from the other house before a house adjourns for more than three days
    • All journals from each house are required to be published

The Judicial branch has the following checks and balances:
  • On the Legislative branch:
    • Judicial Review
    • Compensation is not allowed to decrease
    • Judicial seats are held on good behavior
  • On the Executive branch:
    • Judicial Review
    • During impeachment trials, the Chief Justice is President of the Senate

The Executive branch has the following checks and balances:
  • On the Legislative branch:
    Obama_cabinet_meeting.jpg
    President Obama and his Cabinet
    • The President has the power to veto
    • The Vice President is the President of the Senate
    • The President is the Commander in Chief of the military
    • Recess appointments
      • The President can make appointments of senior federal officials while the Senate is in recess
    • The President can call the House and Senate into emergency sessions
    • When the houses do not agree on adjournment, the President has the power to force it
    • Compensation is not allowed to decrease
  • On the Judicial branch:
    • The President can appoint justices
    • The President has pardon power
  • On the Executive branch:
    • The Vice President and the Cabinet has the power to vote the President is incapable of performing his duties

game_icon.svg.pngClick here for a fill in the blank game on checks and balances

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on checks and balances in Supreme Court nominations

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on checks and balances

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on checks and balances using the Treaty of Versailles as an example

lessonplan.jpgClick here for lesson plan ideas on US v. Nixon and judicial review


Sources:
1. Checks and Balances-the American System. http://americanhistory.about.com/od/usconstitution/a/checks_balances.htm
2. Constitutional Topic: Checks and Balances. http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_cnb.html