A Brief Overview of the United States Political System
BY: WAQAS RAFIQ
The United States government is made up of three different branches, each with its own individual functions and powers. Understanding these roles and what they mean to the country is essential if you want to be involved in local or national politics, as well as contribute your voice to the system as a whole. This overview of the United States political system will help you learn about each branch of government, as well as how it works together with the other two branches to create one united country.
The Legislative Branch
The primary lawmaking body of the United States federal government is composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Congress has the power to pass laws, approve presidential appointments, and declare war. The number of seats in the House is based on population, while each state gets two Senators regardless of population. These are all lifetime positions that cannot be removed by vote, though they can be removed by impeachment. In order for legislation to become a law, it must be approved by both chambers of Congress and signed by the President or passed as a resolution with at least a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers.
The Executive Branch
The President is the head of state and chief executive. The Vice President is also part of the Executive Branch, as are the heads of 15 executive departments, who form the President’s Cabinet. Together, these individuals make up what is known as the Executive Branch. There are a few other branches that have some involvement in running the country too.
The Judicial Branch
The Constitution gives the Supreme Court ultimate authority over all cases involving federal law. The nine justices on the court hear oral arguments and write opinions on cases that they agree to hear. The decisions of the Supreme Court are final. The court can choose to hear a case if it has been appealed from a lower court, if it involves an issue of national importance, or if multiple lower courts have made conflicting decisions on the same issue. In addition to deciding whether to hear a case, the Supreme Court also decides what type of review is appropriate: full review (also called plenary), which requires the lower court’s decision be overturned; limited review (or certiorari), which is limited to addressing one specific question of law raised by the appeal; or no review at all.