About the Organization of the U.S. Government

The U.S. federal government is divided into three branches: the executive, the judicial, and the legislative.

The Organization of the U.S. Government

The Constitution of the United States divides the federal government into three branches to ensure a central government in which no individual or group gains too much control:

  • Legislative - Makes laws (Congress)
  • Executive - Carries out laws (President, Vice President, Cabinet)
  • Judicial - Evaluates laws (Supreme Court and other courts)

The U.S. federal government was created to act in the best interest of its citizens through a system of checks and balances. Each branch of government can change acts of the other branches.

  • The President can veto laws passed by Congress.
  • Congress confirms or rejects the President's appointments and can remove the President from office in exceptional circumstances.
  • The Justices of the Supreme Court, who can overturn unconstitutional laws, are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

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3 Branches of the U.S. Government

Learn the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government and see a lesson plan for teachers.

3 Branches of U.S. Government infographic

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Constitution

The Founding Fathers, the framers of the Constitution, wanted to form a government that did not allow one person to have too much control. With this in mind, they wrote the Constitution to provide for a separation of powers, or three separate branches of government.

Each has its own responsibilities and at the same time, they work together to make the country run smoothly and to assure that the rights of citizens are not ignored or disallowed. This is done through checks and balances. A branch may use its powers to check the powers of the other two in order to maintain a balance of power among the three branches of government.

Legislative - Makes Laws

Congress is composed of two parts: the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Senate
The Senate has 100 elected senators total; 2 senators per state. Each senator serves a 6-year term.

House of Representatives
The House has 435 voting representatives; the number of representatives from each state is based on the state's population. Each representative serves a 2-year term and may be re-elected.

Executive - Carries Out Laws

The executive branch is composed of the President, Vice President, and Cabinet members.

President
The President is the head of state, head of the U.S. government and the commander-in-chief of the U.S. military.

Vice President
The Vice President not only supports the President but also acts as the presiding officer of the Senate.

Cabinet
The Cabinet members are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes). They serve as the President's advisors and heads of various departments and agencies.

Judicial - Evaluates Laws

The judicial branch of government is made up of the court system.

Supreme Court
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the country. The 9 justices are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes).

Other Federal Courts
There are lower Federal courts but they were not created by the Constitution. Congress established them around the country to handle federal business as the country grew, using power granted by the Constitution.

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Last Updated: September 27, 2017

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