As delineated in the US Constitution, the federal government is composed of three branches: the legislative branch, which makes laws; the executive branch, which carries out laws; and the judicial branch, which interprets laws. The legislative branch consists of Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate; the executive branch consists of the president, the vice president, and the cabinet; and the judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The makers of the Constitution set up an elaborate system of checks and balances so that no one branch of government could become too powerful. As a result, although each branch of government is assigned specific responsibilities and powers, the other branches can check or control those powers by their own constitutionally-given powers.
For instance, the president is the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, but only Congress can vote to declare war and appropriate funds for defense. In fact, Congress is the branch of government that controls the funding for any proposed executive actions. The executive branch can negotiate peace treaties, but only the Senate can ratify those treaties. The Senate also has to confirm the appointments of federal officials that the president nominates. The president can veto bills that Congress passes, but Congress in turn can override presidential vetoes by a two-thirds majority.
The Supreme Court has the authority to declare laws passed by Congress or actions undertaken by the president unconstitutional. However, the president appoints members to the Supreme Court and other federal courts. Congress also has the power to impeach the president if he performs unlawful acts.
These are examples of the checks and balances put in place by the founders of the United States to ensure that no branch can become more powerful than any other branch. In specific situations, some politicians have attempted to circumvent these balances in various ways. A famous example is the case of President Franklin D. Roosevelt during his second term. To ensure that his far-ranging social reform programs would meet with judicial approval, he tried to fill the Supreme Court with liberal judges by forcibly retiring older members of the court. This tense situation nearly brought on a constitutional crisis, which was averted when one of the judges voluntarily retired.
There are three branches of government in our political system. The writers of the Constitution established a system of separation of powers and checks and balances. The purpose of these ideas was to prevent any branch or any person from becoming too powerful.
The legislative branch makes the laws. This is a significant power. The executive branch, led by the President, carries out the laws. This also is an important power. The judicial branch interprets the laws. The courts determine if laws are constitutional or unconstitutional. This is a very powerful role.
There is enough evidence to support the statement that no branch has too much power. Since each branch can control the others, no branch should be too powerful. The President can veto laws. Congress can override a veto. The President can fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. The Senate has to approve a President’s nomination for a Supreme Court judge. We can see how that power is being checked today. In March, the President nominated Merrick Garland to fill an opening on the Supreme Court. The Senate has yet to act on that nomination. The courts can declare a law or an executive order unconstitutional. However, Congress can impeach a judge if the judge abuses his or her power or breaks the law.
Many times when people say the President has too much power, it is nothing more than partisan politics. The Republicans will say a Democratic President is doing too much and vice versa. If each branch uses its powers as written in the Constitution, no branch should have more power than another branch, especially with the ability of each branch to control the other branches.