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Of the three branches of U.S. government, which one do you believe is the most...

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laurenb4633 | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 14, 2008 at 5:10 PM via web

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Of the three branches of U.S. government, which one do you believe is the most powerful?

Explain your view by comparing the three branches with regards to their expressed powers found in the Constitution, their checks and balances toward each other, their separation of power, etc. You may want to tie in how the media and interest groups make them more or less powerful as well.

THANK YOU!

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jennifer-taubenheim | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted December 15, 2008 at 12:07 PM (Answer #2)

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This is a very interesting question. The original intent was that the three branches would be able to check and balance one another so that no single branch would be able to claim too much power. According to the Constitution, the legislative branch is to make the laws, the judicial branch is to review the laws to be sure that they are Constitutional, and the executive branch is to enforce the laws.

In recent years, however, I would say that the judicial branch has been claiming more than their fair share of the power. Part of this may be due to the debate as to whether the Constitution is to be interpreted literally, just as it was written, or whether it is meant to be a living, breathing document that changes with the ages. There are numerous examples of the courts making decisions that overturn laws that have been signed into law even when there is no Constitutional basis for such an action. This legislating from the bench, as it is called, often involves cases where the voters make a decision and the courts decide to overturn the decision of the people.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 15, 2008 at 12:07 PM (Answer #3)

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The major decisions that the Supreme Court is able to make places them as the most powerful. One recent example of the impressive power of the Supreme Court is that the decision of this court determined that George W. Bush would be President in 2000.

It is said that some of the most important decisions that a president can make are in the appointments to the Supreme Court. In fact, there have even been presidents who said that their greatest legacy is in whom they appoint to the Supreme Court. In the study of history one sees that the decisions of the Supreme Court have certainly determined the direction of the country. For example, the legislation effected by Chief Justices such as Thurgood Marshall did much to advance Civil Rights.

The Supreme Court can uphold or overturn decisions of all lower courts. This highest of courts can make decisions that cannot easily be overturned. (Roe v. Wade is one example)

With regard to the media and interest groups, the legislature is certainly more vulnerable to these as news coverage and lobbyists prevail. The President, too, is susceptible to popular opinion. But, so often, the Supreme Court seems more autocratic, restricted only by the make-up of judges--whether liberal or conservative in their majority.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted December 15, 2008 at 12:07 PM (Answer #4)

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The executive branch, misusing the privilege of executive orders, has effectively disempowered the other two branches, and has consolidated more and more power over time. Executive orders have created agencies or bureaucracies that, since not created by Congress, have little or no accountability in establishing proclamations that unfortunately have the force of law. The Executive Office was established to execute law, not make it nor judge it. Sadly, because the Executive Department of government has taken over the Legislative and undermined the Judicial, the checks and balances established in the Constitution have been eviscerated. This process began in the 1930's and continues unchecked today. The Office of the President, with its vastly expanded powers, now includes, for example, the ability to wage war, alter or ignore law, set "social policies", and violate rights at whim, none of which are granted in the Constitution and many of which are expressly forbidden. That said, the Judiciary should not "legislate from the bench," but that phrase should not be confused with its ability to strike down law, which it is perfectly and constitutionally empowered to do. The Office of the President, is also constitutionally empowered to make Supreme Court appointments; if the media chooses to make something out of that, so be it. A careful reading of the Constitution, however, will show that what is claimed as a living, breathing document is, in fact, a document sadly ignored, to our own peril.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted December 15, 2008 at 12:07 PM (Answer #5)

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The framers of the Constitution originally felt that the Legislative branch would be the most powerful. After all, a Congress had led the states during the Revolutionary War and during the Articles of Confederation years. Most of the Bill of Rights begin with the phrase "Congress shall make no law.." However, just as in the Revolutionary Period and during the Articles of Confederation, the bickering and lack of unity in Congress prevented it, and still prevents it, from taking the leadership role the framers felt it should take. The judicial branch is mentioned only one in the Constitution and all that is stated is that Congress shall set up a judicial system. The framers felt that most laws would be enforced and interpreted at the state level. It was Chief Justice John Marshall who greatly expanded the power of the Supreme Court in Marbury vs. Madison when he gave the court the right to interpret the Constitutionality of laws. Thus the Supreme Court and with it, the judicial branch has been gaining power ever since. However, as the United States grew, there was more and more need for one person to be able to make quick decisions on policy and national defense. Since the United States has become a leading world nation, the Executive Branch has become more and more powerful. Using his role as commander-in-chief, recent presidents have been able to wage undeclared wars, hold people in prison without trial, and now the U.S. president is the most powerful person on earth.

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted December 15, 2008 at 4:29 PM (Answer #6)

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I'm interested to see people saying that in recent years the Supreme Court has been getting too big for its britches. It's been a long time now since the Court has done any legislating from the bench. It is certainly true that the Judicial Branch -- since Marbury -- has the final say on what is constitutional. However, remember two things. First, the Court can only rule on what is brought to it. Second, most of the action in terms of the effect of government on the lives of the people doesn't get anywhere near questions of constitutionality.

The Legislative Branch has indeed gotten weaker and weaker, especially in recent years. This has been happening gradually ever since the Constitution was adopted, but has accelerated in recent years since the Congress has become so partisan. I worked in Congress in the 70s, and it was way more effective at that time.

Finally, the Executive Branch has been gaining in power steadily over the years. George Washington started this by being far more activist than the framers had anticipated -- of course, only because the Congress let him do it. Among others, Lincoln and FDR continued to expand the Executive's role. It is generally in times of crisis that the Executive gains power, as the Executive is the only one that can act swiftly and authoritatively. Bush (read Cheney) has taken another huge swing at the nosebleed seats. Signing statements, "justice" ala Guantanamo and the erosion of rights in the name of fighting terrorism have all chipped away at the Constitutional design.

It will be very interesting to see how Barack Obama deals with this question. Will he renounce some of these powers, or will he be glad to have all the power he can get?

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted December 16, 2008 at 5:25 PM (Answer #7)

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No nation is immune to the forces of history.  It took Rome several centuries to go from republic to dictator; the US has done it in just over two. I disagree with the assertion that over time there's been more and more need for one person to make quick decisions on policy and national defense.  The decisions on those two items should never be made quickly, and these are legislative (Congressional) concerns that have been taken over by the Executive.  Supposedly someone queried Ben Franklin about what kind of government the new country was to have, as the Constitution's framers were busy hammering it out.  He replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."  However, the beauty of these United States is that we've shown history to be wrong!  We have, for a good part of our short history, proven things can be different, and better.  George Washington once refused the kingship of the United States.  I hope Obama will not be seduced by the power now found in the Office of the President; I hope he'll be worth his salt and begin the restoration of the Balance of Power.  It'll take an extraordinary individual to do so; so far, he's been pretty extraordinary. Failure to do so keeps us roaring down the road to ever expanding government and the consolidation of power to one individual and the inevitable reduction of freedom of the people.

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mauricemo | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 17, 2008 at 12:11 PM (Answer #8)

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Of the three branches of U.S. government , which one is the most powerful according to you?

Explain your view by comparing the three branches with regards to their expressed powers found in the Constitution, their checks and balances toward each other, their separation of power, etc. You may want to tie in how the media and interest groups make them more or less powerful as well.

THANKYOU!

This is a great question. I believe one could that there are situations where one branch has the ability to wield its power over another. Given current headlines, power is perceived as synonymous with abuse. With that assumption, the legislative branch has the power to pass law often without the support or knowledge of constituents. Legislators create additional streams of revenue via big money lobbyists. The executive branch has the power to make itself exempt from laws governing the rest of the country. As Richard Nixon states, 'when the President does it, it's not illegal." Signing statements reached an all time high during the Bush administration, making many of the laws created during and prior to his administration null and void where his actions were concerned. The judicial branch becomes the moral barometer of the nation making it the standard bearer of mores and values. If the court deems an issue to be unacceptable to be heard, the other branches are powerless in bringing it to the forefront of our collective thoughts.

All three branches have power, but the level of power depends on the current balance of power in our two party system in each of the branches.

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cburr | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Associate Educator

Posted December 19, 2008 at 12:50 PM (Answer #9)

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No nation is immune to the forces of history.  It took Rome several centuries to go from republic to dictator; the US has done it in just over two. I disagree with the assertion that over time there's been more and more need for one person to make quick decisions on policy and national defense.  The decisions on those two items should never be made quickly, and these are legislative (Congressional) concerns that have been taken over by the Executive.  Supposedly someone queried Ben Franklin about what kind of government the new country was to have, as the Constitution's framers were busy hammering it out.  He replied, "A republic, if you can keep it."  However, the beauty of these United States is that we've shown history to be wrong!  We have, for a good part of our short history, proven things can be different, and better.  George Washington once refused the kingship of the United States.  I hope Obama will not be seduced by the power now found in the Office of the President; I hope he'll be worth his salt and begin the restoration of the Balance of Power.  It'll take an extraordinary individual to do so; so far, he's been pretty extraordinary. Failure to do so keeps us roaring down the road to ever expanding government and the consolidation of power to one individual and the inevitable reduction of freedom of the people.

I didn't say that over time there has been more and more need for one person to make quick decisions, etc.  What I said was that expansions of executive power have tended to happen during those times of crisis when the nation looked to the executive to act decisively.

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enotechris | College Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted December 20, 2008 at 2:12 PM (Answer #10)

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In reply to #9 -  Understood!   I was replying to #5.  And in those times of emergency, it should have been Congress that acted decisively.  Certainly the President could address Congress and state his (or her, maybe some election! :) case for what action to take; the President should be influential, but shouldn't be making the call.  Of course, there are exceptions, like impending nuclear attack, but these should be rare and specific and should not be the basis of Presidential activity on a regular basis.  

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alohaspirit | Middle School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted December 21, 2008 at 12:29 PM (Answer #11)

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I would have to say in the Constitution the goal was to have Congress have more powers, but over the years the executive and judicial have gained quite a bit of powers.  I would have to say under this current administration its the executive.

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kagroves | Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted August 9, 2011 at 8:38 AM (Answer #12)

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When you stop and think about it, the Legislative Branch is probably the most powerful.  They can pass spending bills, approve treaties, and confirm judical and executive appointments.  Though them having the most "power" was not intentional, the framers wanted to make sure that the branch that represented the people had power over things that were important to them.  that is why we directly elect our representatives and senators.

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shweta12patel | Student, Grade 10 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted October 13, 2011 at 6:06 AM (Answer #13)

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All of them have the equally powefulit is that it is just that they have diiferent roles and as the consitutuion we have checks and balances that each branch can check each other and rectify their mistakes

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trope | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted January 13, 2012 at 9:40 AM (Answer #14)

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I'm interested to see people saying that in recent years the Supreme Court has been getting too big for its britches. It's been a long time now since the Court has done any legislating from the bench. It is certainly true that the Judicial Branch -- since Marbury -- has the final say on what is constitutional. However, remember two things. First, the Court can only rule on what is brought to it. Second, most of the action in terms of the effect of government on the lives of the people doesn't get anywhere near questions of constitutionality.

The Legislative Branch has indeed gotten weaker and weaker, especially in recent years. This has been happening gradually ever since the Constitution was adopted, but has accelerated in recent years since the Congress has become so partisan. I worked in Congress in the 70s, and it was way more effective at that time.

Finally, the Executive Branch has been gaining in power steadily over the years. George Washington started this by being far more activist than the framers had anticipated -- of course, only because the Congress let him do it. Among others, Lincoln and FDR continued to expand the Executive's role. It is generally in times of crisis that the Executive gains power, as the Executive is the only one that can act swiftly and authoritatively. Bush (read Cheney) has taken another huge swing at the nosebleed seats. Signing statements, "justice" ala Guantanamo and the erosion of rights in the name of fighting terrorism have all chipped away at the Constitutional design.

It will be very interesting to see how Barack Obama deals with this question. Will he renounce some of these powers, or will he be glad to have all the power he can get?

I would submit that President Obama just signed all the powers to himself (the office of the President) when he signed the NDAA Bill on Dec. 31, 2011.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/01/02/president-obama-signed-the-national-defense-authorization-act-now-what/

And now that the government can take away citizens their citizenship, I would say that the Executive Branch has complete control.

http://rt.com/usa/news/expatriation-act-citizenship-ndaa-737/

 

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panda2014 | Student, Grade 12 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 17, 2014 at 7:35 PM (Answer #15)

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I think the Executive Branch has become more powerful and influential than the other two branches. Executive orders has allowed the Executive Branch to create independent regulatory agencies and bureaucracies that have little to no restriction or accountability towards Congress. Also, the Executive Branch is allowed to appoint Supreme Court justices as started in the Constitution.

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