In the United States there are three branches of government: the Legislative Branch, Executive Branch, and Judicial Branch. Each of the branches was formed by the constitution when the United States was created. The Legislative Branch is a bicameral system and is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Senate includes 100 members with 2 representing each state, and the House of Representatives is made up of 435 members determined by their state’s population. The Legislative Branch is able to make laws, controls monetary funds, and has the ability to impeach officials (Oleszek, Lecture 9/2017). The Executive Branch is made up of the President and the Cabinet.
The responsibilities the President has include enforcing laws, commanding the military, and vetoing bills (Howell, Lecture 10/4/17). The last branch, The Judicial Branch, is made up of the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can interpret laws and determine if a law is constitutional or not (Knight/Epstein). Mainly the Legislative Branch makes laws and the Executive enforces the laws and the Judicial decides what is constitutional. Having separation of powers allows each branch of the government to have equal power and makes sure that one branch does not overpower the other. Each of the branches are connected to each other in some way and have checks on the other two. The United States government has checks and balances that keeps in order to prevent tyranny (Lecture, 9/13/17).
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It is the reason why we have a separation of power. The Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches each have checks on each other to keep the government in balance. Not one branch of government can be too powerful and abuse their power. The Legislative Branch for example has a check on the Executive Branch like they can impeach and remove the President from office. They can also control the size of the federal court system in the Judicial Branch. The Executive Branch can veto bills that the Congress may have and they can nominate federal judges for the Judicial Branch.
The Judicial Branch can claim any act by the Legislative and Executive Branch as unconstitutional (Lecture, 9/13/17). The constitutional structure of separation of powers invites conflict between the branches. The assignment of powers under the Constitution is overlapping, but also somewhat vague, creating inter-branch conflicts for power across many key functions of the government. The vagueness of much of the Constitution creates political conflict between the branches.
The Constitution is very brief. And while some of the authorities it assigns are certain directives or rules, much of it is open to a variety of interpretations (Gillman). Not surprisingly, political actors in the different branches are likely to interpret its dictates in ways that enhance or expand their own authority and policy agendas. This is especially true in areas where there are clearly shared responsibilities, such as war powers. The President is commander in chief of the armed forces under Article II, but Congress is granted the authority to declare war, raise and support an army and navy, and make rules governing the armed forces (Lecture, 9/20/17, 10/4/17). Although each branch has strong incentives to protect itself, in many cases individual political actors have incentives that run counter to their institutional affiliation.
In particular, political actors will often place the short-term achievement of substantive policy goals ahead of the long-term preservation of institutional power for their branch of government. Generally, certain goals may create conflicts for political actors seeking to maintain the institutional power of their branch. Long-term institutional power may come into conflict with personal policy positions (Lecture, 9/27/17). For example,an individual Member of Congress may believe that foreign policy actions taken by the executive branch without the input, or against the majority wishes, of Congress may be the correct decisions; an individual Justice’s belief may favor an outcome of a Supreme Court case that may decrease the prestige of the Court; and the President may be unwilling to veto legislation that achieves policy outcomes he prefers despite doing so in a way that reduces executive branch capacity (Oleszek, Howell, Knight/Epstein). Second, members of a political party generally do not to want to humiliate other partisans or damage the reputation of their party; instead, they seek to enhance the reputation and brand-name of their party in the hopes of accumulating party power and gaining greater control over public policy. Another goal that drives political behavior for influencing policy is re-election. If, for example, members do not satisfy voters in their districts, they will not survive in Congress.
Furthermore, the most powerful positions in the House and Senate go to the members who have been there the longest, so the quest for re-election drives much of what Congress does (Lecture, 9/27/17). Next, with a maximum of eight years in office, Presidents have strong incentives to move quickly to achieve their policy goals (Knight/Epstein). They may do this by acting unilaterally, appointing czars, and signing national security directives (Knight/Epstein). On the other hand, Supreme Court Justices have life tenures and thus can use their institution and agendas to influence types of policies. For instance, Justices are constrained by the Rule of Four, however, many of them use this as a way to influence certain cases being heard and thus, deciding how to rule (Knight/Epstein). The divisions within the United States government allow for certain institutional constraints which further influences policy outcomes.
The legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the government were assigned distinct and limited roles under the Constitution, and required to be comprised of different political actors. Most powers granted under the Constitution are not unilateral for any one branch; instead they overlap. This overlap coupled with policy incentives influences different policies that can and are enacted.