Does any branch of the United States government have too much power?
When the Founding Fathers wrote our current plan of government, they created a system of separation of powers and checks and balances. The purpose of doing this was to prevent any part of or any person in the government from having too much power. The Founding Fathers still remembered the days when the British King abused his power while we were colonies of Great Britain.
There are three branches of government. The legislative branch, which is Congress, makes our laws. The executive branch, which is led by the President, carries out the laws. The judicial branch, which is our court system, interprets the meaning of the laws. Each branch has a specific job to do. No branch can do everything by itself.
Each branch can also control the other branches. For example, the legislative branch makes the laws, but the President can veto the laws. The judicial branch can also declare laws illegal or unconstitutional. The legislative branch can override a presidential veto. The Senate must also approve the appointment of federal judges.
One example of how the branches can keep the others from becoming too powerful is the current situation with the Supreme Court. President Obama appointed Merrick Garland to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia. However, there are members in Congress who believe that the next elected President should make this appointment. As a result, the Senate has not scheduled a vote to confirm the appointment of Merrick Garland. On the other hand, there are people who believe Congress is abusing its powers and not upholding its constitutional duty by refusing to schedule a vote on Justice Garland. Some Senators also are refusing to meet with him.
Congress also has expressed concern that the President has expanded his powers beyond what is granted in the Constitution. When Congress gave President Johnson the virtually unlimited power to deal with the Vietnam War, Congress tried to get that power back by passing the War Powers Act. This law limits the President from committing our troops abroad without the approval of Congress. However, this law has been fairly ineffective because there is no penalty specified if the President doesn’t follow the law. President Reagan and President Clinton have committed our troops abroad without getting the approval of Congress. President Reagan sent them to Lebanon while President Clinton sent them to Kosovo.
Even though there are examples that might suggest that one branch of government has more power than another, overall, with the system of separation of powers and with the system of checks and balances, the branches are fairly balanced in terms of power.
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