Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances

  Legislative Branch
House: 2-year term
Senate: 6-year term
Executive Branch
President: 4-year term, 2-term limit
Judicial Branch
Judge: life term
Separation of Powers
Defines the powers of each branch of government
  • Passes all federal laws
  • Can impeach and remove the president
  • Can override the president's veto by a 2/3rds vote
  • Passes the federal budget
  • Approves treaties
  • Approves presidential appointments
  • Carries out the laws passed by Congress
  • Can approve or veto Acts of Congress
  • Can submit legislation to Congress
  • Nominates Supreme Court and federal judges
  • Executes court orders
  • Makes foreign treaties
  • Commander in chief of armed forces
  • Can invalidate, on grounds of unconstitutionality, laws passed by Congress
  • Can invalidate executive branch orders or actions on grounds of unconstitutionality or absence of authorizing legislation
Checks and Balances
Each branch has some powers to override the actions of other branches
  • Both houses of Congress must vote to enact a law, thereby checking power within the legislature
  • President can veto legislation
  • Supreme Court can rule federal and state laws unconstitutional
  • Congress can reject legislation the president wants; override vetoes by a 2/3rds vote; impeach and remove president; declare war
  • Senate can refuse to confirm nominees or ratify treaties
  • Supreme Court can declare presidential acts unconstitutional
  • Congress can change the number and jurisdiction of the federal courts; impeach and remove federal judges; propose constitutional amendments to override Supreme Court decisions
  • President appoints federal judges subject to Senate confirmation

View Source
Based on O'Connor, Karen, Larry J. Sabato, Stefan D. Haag, and Gary A. Keith. 2004. American Government: Continuity and Change. New York: Longman, p. 51.