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The Basics of American Government

20. January 2010 by Daniel 0 Comments

If you are planning on staying in the United States for any period of time, it will be most helpful to get to know a little about the way the government is structured and how the government serves the people. Here are some basic notes on the overall structure of the U.S. government.


The Constitution

The U.S. Constitution is the governing document and supreme law of the United States. It provides the general framework for the U.S. federal government, defining the powers and duties of each branch, and reserves all other powers to the states and the people.


Federal Government and Its Branches

The United States Federal Government consists of three branches: legislative, executive and judicial.


The legislative branch includes the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. These two governing bodies are tasked with writing and voting on new laws. Each member of the house is elected from one of numerous congressional districts that are established in each of the individual states based on the state population. Additionally, each U.S. state has two Senators.  

The executive branch is headed by the president of the United States, who acts as both head of state and head of government. The entirety of the executive branch of government consists of many different people who assist the president in various ways. When the legislative branch attempts to make a new law, the president must either approve or veto the law. In addition to enacting laws, the president also commands the military and acts as the country’s chief diplomat.


The judicial branch of government consists of the federal court system, the U.S. Supreme Court being the highest authority. It is the basic function of the federal courts to interpret laws enacted by congress and the president and ensure that laws are constitutional. Under the Supreme Court are the courts of appeals, and below them, in turn, are the U.S. district courts, which act as trial courts for federal law.


State Governments

In addition to the federal government, each individual state maintains a sovereign government of its own –with its own set of unique laws, and constitutional governments. A governor is elected as the state’s chief executive. Each state also has an elected legislature and its own court system. State governments tend to have the greatest influence over the lives of people who live within the state.