What was the structure and function of the government set forth by the United States Constitution?
The government system that is outlined in the United States Constitution was one that was unique to the time period. The government would be divided into three separate branches, each with various powers and responsibilities. The three branches are set up to check and balance the powers of each other.
The legislative branch is responsible for making laws, appropriating spending, and approving treaties. The legislative branch has important checks over the other branches in that it can override presidential vetoes and can impeach the president and judges for wrongdoing. Congress is the body of government encompasses the legislative branch. Congress is divided into two houses: the Senate and House of Representatives. There are important checks between the two houses of Congress that enable a more balanced legislative branch.
The executive branch is responsible for enforcing the laws of Congress. The President of the United States is the head of an executive branch that includes over a dozen departments and hundreds of agencies. The president has important checks over the other branches including the appointment of federal judges, and the ability to veto laws proposed by Congress. The power over the armed forces is also vested in the executive branch.
The judicial branch was established to interpret laws passed by Congress. The highest court in the land is the Supreme Court, but there are federal circuit and appeals courts throughout the country. The judicial branch can check the power of the President and Congress by presiding over impeachment trials, but more importantly, through judicial review. The Court has the power to rule the laws of Congress and executive orders of the president unconstitutional. It uses the Consitution as its guide when making these important decisions.
Another important feature of our constitutional government is that it limits the power of the federal government. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution declares that powers not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states and the people.