(TheRedWire.com) – The Founding Fathers established what they believed to be an ideal form of government by creating three separate branches: the legislative, executive, and judicial. To avoid one part from becoming too powerful, systems ensure that each branch is beholden to the other in various ways. Let’s explore more about how these checks and balances work.
The Three Branches
Before going into the checks and balances, let’s summarize what each branch of government does.
- The legislative branch creates and enacts the laws of the land
- The executive branch empowers and implements those laws
- The judicial branch interprets the laws through the lens of the Constitution to interpret any discrepancies or contradictions between various laws
With that basic framework, here’s how each branch can affect the others.
Legislative Checks and Balances
As a counterbalance to the executive office, the legislative branch can reverse certain actions with a two-thirds majority from both chambers of Congress: the Senate and the House of Representatives. This includes overriding presidential vetoes and rejecting treaty proposals.
Additionally, Congress can impeach the president, and the Senate can deny federal officials and judges nominated by the president. The latter action also affects the judicial branch.
As a balance to the judicial branch, Congress can amend the Constitution thus effectively overturning Supreme Court rulings. Congress can also impeach judges of lower federal courts and can create lower courts.
Executive Checks and Balances
As mentioned previously, the president can veto legislation passed by Congress, which can still be overridden. The executive branch also proposes federal budgets and laws to Congress and appoints federal officials to carry out laws. Finally, the president can issue executive orders which while not being laws, sometimes carry the force of laws, thus circumventing Congress.
In the balance with the judicial branch, the president can nominate judges to the Supreme Court, and other federal courts, and can grant pardons and amnesty to individuals convicted of various crimes.
Judicial Checks and Balances
Finally, the judicial branch enacts its checks and balances largely through the Supreme Court. It can utilize the powers of judicial review to deem presidential actions, executive orders, treaties or laws as unconstitutional.
Overall, these checks and balances keep each branch mostly equal in power. In practice, the legislative branch is, perhaps, both the most powerful and the most restrained. Still, each branch of our government can ensure that the law of the land is fair and just.
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