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What are the institutions of power in the United States?


Image by Nina Paley
Image by Nina Paley

Topics on this page
Congress
  • Women in American Government
  • African Americans in American Government
  • Hispanic Americans in American Government
The President
Bureaucracy
Federal Courts
Vermont's Citizen Legislature


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Congress (The Legislative Branch)

  • Bi-cameral
    • Two bodies: the Senate and House of Representatives
  • Create laws
  • Declare war
  • Power to tax
  • Establish and control courts
  • Establish post offices
  • Regulate commerce
  • Create currency
    • For a full list of powers, click here.

A profile of the Membership of the 113th Congress. Includes a breakdown of age, religion, gender and race, religion, and Congressional service.
Multimedia.pngA Day in the Life of US Congressman John Carney from Delaware on YouTube, February 12, 2012.
Multimedia.png Click here for a video from PBS about The Congress of the United States of America.

GovTrack.US lets citizens keep track of the activities of members of Congress online.
womens history.jpgWomen in the American Government
multicultural.pngAfrican Americans in the American Government

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 11.31.53 AM.png**Hispanic Americans in the American Government**

Keith Ellison, First Muslim Congressman
Keith Ellison, First Muslim Congressman

Religious_Symbols-ani.gifFaith on the Hill: The Religious Composition of the 114th Congress from Pew Research Center (January 5, 2015)

Is the legislative branch becoming corrupt? This article from The Hill explores this question.

The Presidency (The Executive Branch)

  • Commander in Chief of the armed forces
  • Veto legislation
  • Grant pardons
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The White House

  • Appoint people to cabinets and courts
  • Can issue "executive order"
  • Foreign policy
  • For a full list of powers, click here.
multicultural.pngRead here about Barack Obama, America's first black President.
womens history.jpgPDF of the past female candidates for President and Vice President.

The Bureaucracy

  • Ensures that policies and programs set by Congress are followed
  • Considered part of the Executive Branch
  • Execute laws
  • Government corporations
    • Post Office
    • Amtrak
  • Regulatory commissions and agencies
    • FDA
      dept of labor.JPG
      US Department of Labor
    • Federal Trade Commission
    • Nuclear Regulatory Commission
  • Click here for more information.
lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan on bureaucracy from the New York Times.

The Federal Courts

womens history.jpgWomen in the Supreme Court
multicultural.pngThe first black American judge on the Supreme Court was Thurgood Marshall. When he was a lawyer for the NAACP, he successfully argued and won Brown v. Board, the case when the Supreme Court declared segregated schools unconstitutional.
  • After Marshall retired, his seat was filled by Clarence Thomas, the second black American Supreme Court judge.
  • For more about Thurgood Marshall, see USII 25.
multicultural.pngSonia Sotomayor is the first Spanish Supreme Court judge. Read 8 things you may have not know about her from PBS here.
rotating gif.gifSee more about the Supreme Court here, USG 3.4.

This article from the Washington Post takes an interesting look at Supreme Justice limits (it's the only branch without term limits).

external image Stack.pngVermont's Citizen Legislature


Full and Part Time Legislatures groups the 50 state legislative bodies into three major categories.
podcast icon.pngDebating the Pros and Cons of a Citizen Legislature, a podcast from Vermont Public Radio (February 6, 2012). Vermont does not have a full-time professional legislature.

Vermont State House, Montpelier
Vermont State House, Montpelier

For more, see Under the Golden Dome: The Stories Behind Vermont's Citizen Legislature: Program 10.

Some Vermonters Can't Afford to Serve in the Citizen Legislature.

State Legislature Session Length from the University of Vermont compares Vermont's citizen legislature to Maryland's professional one.

Vermont's Legislative Process describes the working of the Vermont legislature.

Sources:
1. AP Gov Review