AP US Government and Politics: Interactions Among Branches of Government Notes

Key Takeaways: Interactions Among Branches of Government

  1. The U.S. Congress is divided into two chambers: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate was designed to represent the interest of state governments, while the House of Representatives was designed to represent the people; the functions and procedures of each house reflect these different constituencies.
  2. The primary function of Congress is to enact legislation that is necessary and proper to carry out the powers it was granted by the Constitution. To handle the large volume of legislation it considers, Congress utilizes a complex committee system.
  3. The president’s ability to veto legislation is an important check on congressional power. The president also performs other formal and informal roles, such as civilian Commander-in-Chief of the military, diplomatic head of state, and de facto leader of his or her political party.
  4. The nature of the president’s role has changed over time, with the scope of the president’s power gradually expanding despite efforts by Congress and the Supreme Court to limit the president’s authority.
  5. The purpose of the federal court system is to resolve disputes that arise under federal law. When the federal courts resolve a conflict between a statute and the Constitution, they engage in a process known as judicial review; judicial review empowers the court system to void laws that violate the Constitution, giving the judiciary an important check against the legislative and executive branches.
  6. The courts are self-limited by the principle of stare decisis, which requires them to adhere to previous decisions when making new rulings. The court system is also subject to being overruled by Congress through legislation or constitutional amendment, and the president exercises preemptive oversight of the judiciary through the nomination process.
  7. The bureaucracy consists of the numerous departments, agencies, commissions, and government corporations that make up the administrative arm of the federal government. The bureaucracy employs millions of workers known as civil servants, who are hired and promoted under a merit-based system; the most senior officials within the bureaucracy are appointed by the president.
  8. As an extension of the executive branch, the primary purpose of the bureaucracy is to create regulations that govern the implementation and enforcement of federal law. The work of the bureaucracy is checked by various forms of presidential, congressional, and judicial oversight.

Key Terms: Interactions Among Branches of Government

The Congress

  • U.S. Congress: The legislature of the federal government, divided into a Senate and a House of Representatives. Senate: Upper house of Congress, designed to represent state interests; this chamber consists of 100 members, two from each state.
  • House of Representatives: Lower house of Congress, designed to represent the people; this chamber consists of 435 members, with each state allotted a number of seats based on its population.
  • Bicameral legislature: A lawmaking body that is divided into two houses, such as the U.S. Congress.
  • Enumerated powers: Powers that are explicitly granted to Congress within the text of the Constitution.
  • Necessary and proper clause: A statement in Article I of the Constitution giving Congress the implied power to expand the scope of its enumerated powers.
  • Implied powers: Powers belonging to a government entity that are not expressly stated in the Constitution; powers that are derived from explicit or enumerated powers.
  • McCulloch v. Maryland (1819): Landmark Supreme Court decision that held that Congress has implied powers necessary to implement its enumerated powers and that established the supremacy of the U.S. Constitution and federal laws over state laws.
  • Speaker of the House: Formal presiding officer of the House of Representatives; a position established by Article I of the Constitution and elected by the entire House.
  • Majority leader: Member of Congress elected by the majority party in each house to promote its legislative agenda, primarily by speaking with leaders of both parties of both houses, and the public.
  • Majority whip: Member of Congress elected by the majority party of each house to encourage fellow party members to support the majority party’s legislative agenda.
  • Minority leader: Member of Congress elected by the minority party of each house to promote its legislative agenda; analogous to the majority leader.

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