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Правительство Соединенных Штатов

Правительство Соединенных Штатов

Kyrgyz State National University



Ilebaev Emil

Kasymov Maksat_________

Bishkek 2001


In July 1780 France's Louis XVI had sent to America an expeditionary force

of 6,000 men under the Comte Jean de Rochambeau. In addition, the French

fleet harassed British shipping and prevented reinforcement and resuppi^ of

British forces in Virginia by a British fleet sailing from New York City.

French and American armies and navies, totaling 18,000 men, parried with

Cornwallis all through the summer and into the fall. Finally, on October

19, 17B1, after being trapped at Yorktown near the mouth of Chesa-peake

Bay, Cornwallis surrendered his army of 8,000 British soldiers.

Although Cornwallis's defeat did not immediately end the war — which would

drag on inconclusively for almost two more years — a new British government

decided to pursue peace negotiations in Paris in early 1782, with the

American side represented by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay. On

April 15, 1783, Congress approved the final treaty, and Great Britain and

its former colonies signed it on September 3. Known as the Treaty of Paris,

the peace settlement acknowledged the independence, freedom and sovereignty

of the 13 former colonies, now states, to which Great Britain granted the

territory west to the Mississippi River, north to Canada and south to

Florida, which was returned to Spain. The fledgling colonies that Richard

Henry Lee had spoken of more than seven years before, had finally become

"free and independent states." The task of knitting together a nation yet



During the war, the states had agreed to work together by sending

representatives to a national congress patterned after the "Congress of

Delegates" that conducted the war with England. It would raise money to pay

off debts of the war, establish a money system and deal with foreign

nations in making treaties. The agreement that set up this plan of

cooperation was called the Articles of Confederation. work together? They

believed that the Congress needed more power.

The plan for the government was written in very simple language in a

document called the Constitution of the United Slates. The Constitution set

up a federal system with a strong central government. A federal system is

one in which power is shared between a central authority and its

constituent parts, with some rights reserved to each. The Constitution also

called for the election of a national leader, or president.

Two main fears shared by most Americans: one fear was that one person

or group, including the majority, might become too powerful or be able to

seize control of the country and create a tyranny, another fear was that

the new central government might weaken or take away the power of the state

governments to run their own affairs. To deal with this the Constitution

specified exactly what power central government had and which power was

reserved for the states.

Representatives of various states noted that the Constitution did not

have any words guaranteeing the freedoms or the basic rights and privileges

of citizens. Though the Convention delegates did not think it necessary to

include such explicit guarantees, many people felt that they needed further

written protection against tyranny. So, a "Bill of Rights" was added to the


The Bill of Rights

The first 10 amendments to the Constitution and their purpose


|Amendment 1 |Freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly; the |

| |right to petition government |

| |


|Amendment 2 |Right to bear arms and maintain state militias (National|

| |Guard). |

|Amendment 3 |Troops may not be quartered in homes in peacetime. |

| |


|Amendment 4 |No unreasonable searches or seizures. |

|Amendment 5 |Grand jury indictment required to prosecute a person for|

| |a serious crime. No “double jeopardy” – being tried |

| |twice for the same offence. Forcing a person to testify |

| |against himself or herself prohibited. No loss of life, |

| |liberty or property without due process. |

|Amendment 6 |Right to speedy, public, impartial trial with defense |

| |counsel, and right to cross-examine witnesses. |

|Amendment 7 |Jury trials in civil suits where value exceeds 20 |

| |dollars. |

|Amendment 8 |No excessive bail or fines, no cruel and unusual |

| |punishments. |

| |


|Amendment 9 |Unlisted rights are not necessarily denied. |

|Amendment 10|Powers not delegated to the United States or denied to |

| |states are reserved to the states or to the people. |

The Bill of Rights was ratified in1791, but its application as

broadened significantly by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which

was ratified in 1868. A key phrase in the 14th Amendment – “nor shall any

state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process

of law” – has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as forbidding the

states from violating most of the rights and freedoms protected by the Bill

of Rights.


At a time when all the major European states had hereditary monarchs,

the idea of a president with a limited term of office was itself

revolutionary. The Constitution vests the executive power in the president.

It also provides for the election of a vice president who succeeds to the

presidency in case of the death, resignation or incapacitation of the

president. While the Constitution spells out in some detail the duties and

powers of the president, it does not delegate any specific executive powers

to the vice president or to members of the presidential Cabinet or to other

federal officials.

Creation of a powerful unitary presidency was the source of some

contention in the Constitutional Convention. Several states had had

experience with executive councils made up of several members, a system

that had been followed with considerable success by the Swiss for some

years. And Benjamin Franklin urged that a similar system be adopted by the

United States. Moreover, many delegates, still smarting under the excesses

of executive power wielded by the British king, were wary of a powerful

presidency. Nonetheless, advocates of a single president—operating under

strict checks and balances—carried the day.

In addition to a right of succession, the vice president was made the

presiding officer of the Senate. A constitutional amendment adopted in 1967

amplifies the process of presidential succession. It describes the specific

conditions under which the vice president is empowered to take over the

office of president if the president should become incapacitated. It also

provides for resumption of the office by the president in the event of his

or her recovery. In addition, the amendment enables the president to name a

vice president, with congressional approval, when the second office is

vacated. This 25th Amendment to the Constitution was put into practice

twice in 1974: when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned and was replaced

by Gerald R. Ford; and when, after President Richard Nixon's resignation,

President Ford nominated and Congress confirmed former New York governor

Nelson A. Rockefeller as vice president.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to establish the order of

succession after the vice president. At present, in the event both the

president and vice president vacate their offices, the speaker of the House

of Representatives would assume the presidency. Next comes the president

pro tempore of the Senate (a senator elected by that body to preside in the

absence of the vice president), and then Cabinet officers in designated


The seat of government, which moved in 1800 to Washington, D.C. (the

District of Columbia), is a federal enclave on the eastern seaboard. The

White House, both residence and office of the president, is located there.

Although land for the federal capital was ceded by the states of Maryland

and Virginia, the present District of Columbia occupies only the area given

by Maryland; the Virginia sector, unused by the government for half a

century, reverted to Virginia in 1846.

| |


|TERM OF OFFICE: |Elected by the people, through the electoral college, to a|

| |four-year term; limited to two terms. |

|SALARY: |$200,000 plus $50,000 allowance for expenses, and up to |

| |$100,000 tax-free for travel and official entertainment |

|INAUGURATION: |January 20, following the November general election |

|QUALIFICATIONS: |Native-born American citizen, at least 35 years old and at|

| |least 14 years a resident of the United States. |

|CHIEF DUTY: |To protect the Constitution and enforce the laws made by |

| |the Congress. |

|OTHER POWERS: |To recommend legislation to the Congress; to call special |

| |sessions of the Congress; to deliver messages to the |

| |Congress; to veto bills; to appoint federal judges; to |

| |appoint heads of federal departments and agencies and |

| |other principal federal officials; to appoint |

| |representatives to foreign countries; to carry on official|

| |business with foreign nations; to exercise the function of|

| |commander-in-chief of the armed forces; to grant pardons |

| |for offenses against the United States. |

The Constitution requires the president to be a native-born American

citizen at least 35 years of age. Candidates for the presidency are chosen

by political parties several months before the presidential election, which

is held every four years (in years divisible evenly by four) on the first

Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

The method of electing the president is peculiar to the American system.

Although the names of the candidates appear on the ballots, technically the

people of each state do not vote directly for the president (and vice

president). Instead, they select a slate of presidential electors, equal to

the number of senators and representatives each state has in Congress. The

candidate with the highest number of votes in each state wins all the

electoral votes of that state.

The electors of all 50 states and the District of Columbia—a total of

538 persons—compose what is known as the Electoral College. Under the terms

of the Constitution, the College never meets as a body. Instead, the

electors gather in the state capitals shortly after the election and cast

their votes for the candidate with the largest number of popular votes in

their respective states. To be successful, a candidate for the presidency

must receive 270 votes. The Constitution stipulates that if no candidate

has a majority, the decision shall be made by the House of Representatives,

with all members from a state voting as a unit. In this event, each state

and the District of Columbia would be allotted one vote only.

The presidential term of four years begins on January 20 (it was changed

from March by the 20th Amendment, ratified in 1933) following a November

election. The president starts his or her official duties with an

inauguration ceremony, traditionally held on the steps of the U.S. Capitol,

where Congress meets'. The president publicly takes an oath of office,

which is traditionally administered by the chief justice of the United

States. The words are prescribed in Article II of the Constitution:

/ do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the

office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my

ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United


The oath-taking ceremony is usually followed by an inaugural address in

which the new president outlines the policies and plans of his or her



The office of President of the United States is one of the most powerful in

the world. The president, the Constitution says, must "take care that the

laws be faithfully executed." To carry out this responsibility, he or she

presides over the executive branch of the federal government—a vast

organization numbering several million people—and in addition has important

legislative and judicial powers.


Despite the Constitutional provision that "all legislative powers" shall be

vested in the Congress, the president, as the chief formulator of public

policy, has a major legislative role. The president can veto any bill

passed by Congress and, unless two-thirds in each house vote to override

the veto, the bill does not become law. Much of the legislation dealt with

by Congress is drafted at the initiative of the executive branch. In an

annual and special messages to Congress, the president may propose

legislation he or she believes is necessary. If Congress should adjourn

without acting on those proposals, the president has the power to call it

into special session. But, beyond all this, the president, as head of a

political party and as principal executive officer of the U.S. government,

is in a position to influence public opinion and thereby to influence the

course of legislation in Congress. To improve their working relationships

with Congress, presidents in recent years have set up a Congressional

Liaison Office in the White House. Presidential aides keep abreast of all

important legislative activities and try to persuade senators and

representatives of both parties to support administration policies.


Among the president's constitutional powers is that of appointing important

public officials; presidential nomination of federal judges, including

members of the Supreme Court, is subject to confirmation by the Senate.

Another significant power is that of granting a full or conditional pardon

to anyone convicted of breaking a federal law—except in a case of

impeachment. The pardoning power has come to embrace the power to shorten

prison terms and reduce fines.


Within the executive branch itself, the president has broad powers to

manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government. The

president can issue rules, regulations and instructions called executive

orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies. As

commander-in-chief of the armed forces of the United States, the president

may also call into federal service the state units of the National Guard.

In times of war or national emergency, the Congress may grant the president

even broader powers to manage the national economy and protect the security

of the United States.

The president chooses the heads of all executive departments and

agencies, together with hundreds of other high-ranking federal officials.

The large majority of federal workers, however, are selected through the

Civil Service system, in which appointment and promotion are based on

ability and experience


Under the Constitution, the president is the federal official primarily

responsible for the relations of the United States with foreign nations.

Presidents appoint ambassadors, ministers and consuls—subject to

confirmation by the Senate—and receive foreign ambassadors and other public

officials. With the secretary of state, the president manages all official

contacts with foreign governments. On occasion, the president may

personally participate in summit conferences where chiefs of state meet for

direct consultation. Thus, President Woodrow Wilson headed the American

delegation to the Paris conference

at the end of World War I; President Franklin D. Roosevelt conferred with

Allied leaders at sea, in Africa and in Asia during World War II; and every

president since Roosevelt has met with world statesmen to discuss economic

and political issues, and to reach bilateral and multilateral agreements.

Through the Department of State, the president is responsible for the

protection of Americans abroad and of foreign nationals in the United

States. Presidents decide whether to recognize new nations and new

governments, and negotiate treaties with other nations, which are binding

on the United States when approved by two-thirds of the Senate. The

president may also negotiate "executive agreements" with foreign powers

that are not subject to Senate confirmation.


Because of the vast array of presidential roles and responsibilities,

coupled with a conspicuous presence on the national and international

scene, political analysts have tended to place great emphasis on the

president's powers. Some have even spoken of the "the imperial presidency,"

referring to the expanded role of the office that Franklin D. Roosevelt

maintained during his term.

One of the first sobering realities a new president discovers is an

inherited bureaucratic structure which is difficult to manage and slow to

change direction. Power to appoint ex- ' tends only to some 3,000 people

out of a civilian government ' work force of more than three million, most

of whom are protected in their jobs by Civil Service regulations.

The president finds that the machinery of government operates pretty

much independently of presidential interventions, has done so through

earlier administrations, and will continue to do so in the future. New

presidents are immediately confronted with a backlog of decisions from the

outgoing administration on issues that are often complex and unfamiliar.

They inherit a budget formulated and enacted into law long before they came

to office, as well as major spending programs (such as veterans' benefits.

Social Security payments and Medicare for the elderly), which are mandated

by law and not subject to influence. In foreign affairs, presidents must

conform with treaties and informal agreements negotiated by their


The happy euphoria of the post-election "honeymoon" quickly dissipates,

and the new president discovers that Congress has become less cooperative

and the media more critical. The president is forced to build at least

temporary alliances among diverse, often antagonistic interests—economic,

geographic, ethnic and ideological. Compromises with Congress must be

struck if any legislation is to be adopted. "It is very easy to defeat a

bill in Congress," lamented President John F. Kennedy. "It is much more

difficult to pass one."

Despite these burdensome constraints, few presidents have turned down

the chance to run for a second term of office. Every president achieves at

least some of his legislative goals and prevents by veto the enactment of

other laws he believes not to be in the nation's best interests. The

president's authority in the conduct of war and peace, including the

negotiation of treaties, is substantial. Moreover, the president can use

his unique position to articulate ideas and advocate policies, which then

have a better chance of entering the public consciousness than those held

by his political rivals. When a president raises an issue, it inevitably

becomes subject to public debate. A president's power and influence may be

limited, but they are also greater than those of any other American, in or

out of office.


The day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws is in the

hands of the various executive departments, created by Congress to deal

with specific areas of national and international affairs. The heads of the

departments, chosen by the president and approved by the Senate, form a

council of advisers generally known as the president's "Cabinet." In

addition to 14 departments, there are a number of staff organizations

grouped into the Executive Office of the President. These include the White

House staff, the National Security Council, the Office of Management and

Budget, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of the U.S. Trade

Representative, and the Office of Science and Technology.

The Constitution makes no provision for a presidential Cabinet. It

does provide that the president may ask opinions, in writing, from the

principal officer in each of the executive departments on any subject in

their area of responsibility, but it does not name the departments nor

describe their duties. Similarly, there are no specific constitutional

qualifications for service in the Cabinet.

The Cabinet developed outside the Constitution as a matter of

practical necessity, for even in George Washington's day it was an absolute

impossibility for the president to discharge his duties without advice and

assistance. Cabinets are what any particular president makes them. Some

presidents have relied heavily on them for advice, others lightly, and some

few have largely ignored them. Whether or not Cabinet members act as

advisers, they retain the responsibility for directing the activities of

the government in specific areas of concern.

Each department has thousands of employees, with offices throughout the

country as well as in Washington. The departments are divided into

divisions, bureaus, offices and services, each with specific duties.


|(All departments are headed by a secretary, except the Justice Department, |

|which is headed by the attorney general.) |


|THE DEPARTMENT OF COMMERCE: |Created in 1903. The Department of |

| |Commerce and Labor split into two |

| |separate departments in 1913. |

|THE DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE: |Amalgamated in 1947. The Department of |

| |Defense was established by combining, |

| |the Department of War (established in |

| |1789), the Department of the Navy |

| |(established in 1798) and the |

| |Department of the Air Force |

| |(established in 1947). Although the |

| |secretary of defense is a member of the|

| |Cabinet, the secretaries of the Army, |

| |Navy and Air Force are not. |

|THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: |Created in 1979. Formerly part of the |

| |Department of Health, Education and |

| |Welfare. |

|THE DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY: |Created in 1977. |

|THE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN |Created in 1979, when the Department of|

|SERVICES: |Health, Education and Welfare (created |

| |in 1953) was split into separate |

| |entities. |




|THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: |Created in 1870. Between 1789 and 1870,|

| |the attorney general was a member of |

| |the Cabinet, but not the head of a |

| |department. |

|THE DEPARTMENT OF LABOR: |Created in 1913 |

|THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE: |Created in 1789. |



|THE DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS:|Created in 1988. Formerly the Veterans |

| |Administration, now elevated to Cabinet|

| |level |


The Department of Agriculture (USDA) supervises agricultural production to

ensure fair prices and stable markets for producers and consumers, works to

improve and maintain farm income, and helps to develop and expand markets

abroad for agricultural products. The department attempts to curb poverty,

hunger and malnutrition by issuing food stamps to the poor; sponsoring

educational programs on nutrition; and administering other food assistance

programs, primarily for children, expectant mothers and the elderly. It

maintains production capacity by helping landowners protect the soil,

water, forests and other natural resources. USDA administers rural

development, credit and conservation programs that are designed to

implement national growth policies, and conducts scientific and

technological research in all areas of agriculture. Through its inspection

and grading services, USDA ensures standards of quality in food offered for

sale. The department also promotes agricultural research by maintaining the

National Agricultural Library, the second largest government library in the

world. (The U.S. Library of Congress is first.) The USDA Foreign

Agricultural Service (FAS) serves as an export promotion and service agency

for U.S. agriculture, employing specialists abroad who make surveys of

foreign agriculture for U.S. farm and business interests. The U.S. Forest

Service, also part of the department, administers an extensive network of

national forests and wilderness areas.


The Department of Commerce serves to promote the nation's international

trade, economic growth and technological advancement. It offers assistance

and information to increase America's competitiveness in the world economy;

administers programs to prevent unfair foreign trade competition; and

provides social and economic statistics and analyses for business and

government planners. The department comprises a diverse array of agencies.

The National Bureau of Standards, for example, conducts scientific and

technical research, and maintains physical measurement systems for industry

and government. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA),

which includes the National Weather Service, works to improve understanding

of the physical environment and oceanic resources. The Patent and Trademark

Office grants patents and registers trademarks. The department also

conducts research and develops policy on telecommunications; promotes

domestic economic development and foreign travel to the United States; and

assists in the growth of businesses owned and operated by minorities.


Headquartered in the Pentagon, the "world's largest office building," the

Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for all matters relating to the

nation's military security. It provides the military forces of the United

States, which consist of about two million men and women on active duty.

They are backed, in case of emergency, by 2.5 million members of state

reserve components, known as the National Guard. In addition, about one

million civilian employees serve in the Defense Department in such areas as

research, intelligence communications, mapping and international security

affairs. The National Security Agency (NSA) also comes under the direction

of the secretary of defense. The department directs the separately

organized military departments of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air

Force, as well as each service academy and the National War College, the

Joint Chiefs of Staff and several specialized combat commands. DOD

maintains forces overseas to meet treaty commitments, to protect the

nation's outlying territories and commerce, and to provide air combat and

support forces. Nonmilitary responsibilities include flood control,

development of oceanographic resources and management of oil reserves.


The Department of Education absorbed most of the education programs

previously conducted by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, as

well as programs that had been handled by six other agencies. The

department establishes policy for and administers more than 150 federal aid-

to-education programs, including student loan programs, programs for

migrant workers, vocational programs, and special programs for the

handicapped. The Department of Education also partially supports the

American Printing House for the Blind; Gallaudet University, established to

provide a liberal higher education for deaf persons; the National Technical

Institute for the Deaf, part of the Rochester (New York) Institute of

Technology, designed to educate deaf students within a college campus, but

planned primarily for hearing students; and Howard University in

Washington, D.C., a comprehensive university which accepts students of all

races, but concentrates on educating black Americans.


Growing concern with the nation's energy problems in the 1970s prompted

Congress to create the Department of Energy (DOE). The department took over

the functions of several government agencies already engaged in the energy

field. Staff offices within the DOE are responsible for the research,

development and demonstration of energy technology; energy conservation;

civilian and military use of nuclear energy; regulation of energy

production and use; pricing and allocation of oil;

and a central energy data collection and analysis program. The department

protects the nation's environment by setting standards to minimize the

harmful effects of energy production. For example, DOE conducts

environmental and health-related research, such as studies of energy-

related pollutants and their effects on biological systems.


The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) probably directly touches

the lives of more Americans than any other federal agency. Its largest

component, the Social Security Administration, pools contributions from

employers and employees to pay benefits to workers and their families who

have retired, died or become disabled. Social Security contributions help

pay medical bills for those 65 years and older as well, under a program

called Medicare. Through a separate program, called Medicaid, HHS provides

grants to states to help pay the medical costs of the poor. HHS also

administers a network of medical research facilities through the National

Institutes of Health, and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse and Mental Health

Administration. Other HHS agencies ensure the safety and effectiveness of

the nation's food supply and drugs, work to prevent outbreaks of

communicable diseases, and provide health services to the nation's American

Indian and native Alaskan populations. In cooperation with the states, HHS

operates the principal federal welfare program for the poor, called Aid to

Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)


The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) manages programs that

assist community development and help provide affordable housing for the

nation. Fair housing laws, administered by HUD, are designed to ensure that

individuals and families can buy a dwelling without being subjected to

housing discrimination. HUD directs mortgage insurance programs that help

families become homeowners, and a rent-subsidy program for low-income

families who otherwise could not afford decent housing. In addition, it

operates programs that aid neighborhood rehabilitation, preserve urban

centers from blight and encourage the development of new communities. HUD

also protects the home buyer in the marketplace and fosters programs to

stimulate the housing industry.


As the nation's principal conservation agency, the Department of the

Interior has responsibility for most of the federally owned public lands

and natural resources in the United States. The Fish and Wildlife Service,

for example, administers 442 wildlife refuges, 150 waterfowl production

areas, and a network of wildlife laboratories and fish hatcheries. The

National Park Service administers more than 340 national parks and scenic

monuments, riverways, seashores, recreation areas and historic sites.

Through the Bureau of Land Management, the department oversees the land and

resources—from timber and grazing to oil production and recreation—on

millions of hectares of public land located primarily in the West. The

Bureau of Reclamation manages scarce water resources in the semiarid

western United States. The department regulates mining in the United

States, assesses mineral resources, and has major responsibility for

American Indians living on reservations. Internationally, the department

administers programs in U.S. territories such as the Virgin Islands, Guam,

American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands and Palau, and provides

funding for development to the Marshall Islands and the Federated States of



The attorney general, the chief law officer of the federal government, is

in charge of the Department of Justice. The department represents the U.S.

government in legal matters and courts of law, and renders legal advice and

opinions, upon request, to the president and to the heads of the executive

departments. Its Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the principle law

enforcement body, and its Immigration and Naturalization Service

administers immigration laws. A major agency within the department is the

Drug Enforcement Administration, (DEA), which administers narcotics and

controlled substances laws, and tracks down major illicit drug trafficking

organizations. The Justice Department also gives aid to local police

forces. In addition, the department directs U.S. district attorneys and

marshals throughout the country, supervises federal prisons and other penal

institutions, and investigates and reports to the president on petitions

for paroles and pardons. The Justice Department is also linked to INTERPOL,

the International Criminal Police Organization, charged with promoting

mutual assistance between law enforcement agencies in 146 countries.


The Department of Labor promotes the welfare of wage earners in the United

States, helps improve working conditions and fosters good relations between

labor and management. It administers more than 130 federal labor laws

through such agencies as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration

(OSHA), the Employment Standards Administration and the Mine Safety and

Health Administration. Among its responsibilities are: guaranteeing

workers' rights to safe and healthy working conditions; establishing

minimum hourly wages and overtime pay; prohibiting employment

discrimination; and providing for unemployment insurance and compensation

for on-the-job injury. It also protects workers' pension rights, sponsors

job training programs and helps workers find jobs. Its Bureau of Labor

Statistics monitors and reports changes in employment, prices and other

national economic measurements. For job seekers, the department makes

special efforts to help older workers, youths, minorities, women and the



The Department of State advises the president, who has overall

responsibility for formulating and executing the foreign policy of the

United States. The department assesses American overseas interests, makes

recommendations on policy and future action, and takes necessary steps to

carry out established policy. It maintains contacts and relations between

the United States and foreign countries, advises the president on

recognition of new foreign countries and governments, negotiates treaties

and agreements with foreign nations, and speaks for the United States in

the United Nations and in more than 50 other major international

organizations. As-of 1988, the department supervised 141 embassies and 113

missions or consulates in foreign nations.


The Department of Transportation (DOT) was created in 1966 by consolidating

land, sea and air transportation functions scattered thoughout eight

separate departments and agencies. DOT establishes the nation's overall

transportation policy through nine operating units that encompass highway

planning, development and construction; urban mass transit; railroads;

civilian aviation; and the safety of waterways, ports, highways, and oil

and gas pipelines. For example, the Federal Aviation Administration

operates more than 350 air traffic control facilities across the country;

the Federal Highway Administration is responsible for the 68,000-kilometer

interstate highway system; the National Highway Traffic Safety

Administration establishes safety and fuel economy standards for motor

vehicles; and the Maritime Administration operates the U.S. merchant marine

fleet. The U.S. Coast Guard, the nation's primary maritime law enforcement

and licensing agency, conducts search and rescue missions at sea, combats

drug smuggling and works to prevent oil spills and ocean pollution.


The Department of the Treasury is responsible for serving the fiscal and

monetary needs of the nation. The department performs four basic functions:

formulating financial, tax and fiscal policies; serving as financial agent

for the U.S. government; providing specialized law enforcement services;

and manufacturing coins and currency. The Treasury Department reports to

Congress and the president on the financial condition of the government and

the national economy. It regulates the sale of alcohol, tobacco and

firearms in interstate and foreign commerce; supervises the printing of

stamps for the U.S. Postal Service; operates the Secret Service, which

protects the president, the vice president, their families, and visiting

dignitaries and heads of state; suppresses counterfeiting of U.S. currency

and securities; and administers the Customs Service, which regulates and

taxes the flow of goods into the country. The department includes the

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Treasury official who

executes the laws governing the operation of approximately 4,600 banks; and

the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which administers tax laws—the source

of most of the federal government's revenue.


The Department of Veterans Affairs, established as an independent agency in

1930 and elevated to Cabinet level in 1988, dispenses benefits and services

to eligible veterans of U.S. military service and their dependents. The

medicine and surgery department provides hospital and nursing home care,

and outpatient medical and dental services through 172 medical centers, 16

retirement homes, 228 clinics and 116 nursing homes in the United States,

Puerto Rico and the Philippines. It also supports veterans under care in

hospitals and nursing homes in 35 states. The veterans benefits department

oversees claims for disability, pensions, specially adapted housing and

other services. This department also administers education programs for

veterans, and provides housing credit assistance to eligible veterans and

active-duty service personnel. The memorial affairs department administers

the National Cemetery System, providing burial services, headstones and

markers to eligible veterans and their spouses within specially designated

cemeteries throughout the United States.


The executive departments are the major operating units of | the federal

government, but there are many other agencies which have important

responsibilities for keeping the government and the economy working

smoothly. These are often called independent agencies, since they are not

part of the executive departments. The nature and purpose of these agencies

vary widely. Some are regulatory groups, with powers to supervise certain

sectors of the economy. Others provide special services, either to the

government or to the people. In most cases, the agencies have been created

by Congress to deal with matters that have become too complex for the scope

of ordinary legislation. The Interstate Commerce Commission, for example,

was established by Congress in 1887 to curb the growing power of the

railroads. In recent years, however, a trend toward deregulation of the

economy has altered the functions of many federal regulatory bodies. Among

the most important independent agencies are the following:

action is the principal federal agency for administering domestic volunteer

service programs to meet basic human needs, and to support the self-help

efforts of poor individuals and communities. Some of action's programs are

Foster Grandparents, offering older Americans opportunities for close

relationships with needy children; Volunteers in Service to America

(VISTA), which provides volunteers to work in poor communities; and Student

Community Service Projects, which encourages students to volunteer in their

communities as part of their education.

central intelligence agency (cia) coordinates intelligence activities of

certain government departments and agencies; collects, correlates and

evaluates intelligence information relating to national security; and makes

recommendations to the National Security Council.

environmental protection agency (epa), founded in 1970, works with state

and local governments throughout the United States to control and abate

pollution in the air and water, and to deal with the problems of solid

waste, pesticides, radiation and toxic substances. EPA sets and enforces

standards for air and water quality, evaluates the impact of pesticides and

chemical substances, and manages the so-called "Superfund" program for

cleaning toxic waste sites.

the federal communications commission licenses the operation of radio and

television stations and regulates interstate telephone and telegraph

services. It sets rates for interstate communications services, assigns

radio frequencies, and administers international communications treaties.

the federal reserve system supervises the private banking system of the

United States. It regulates the volume of credit and money in circulation.

The Federal Reserve performs many of the functions of central banks in

other countries, such as issuing paper currency; unlike central banks,

however, it does not act as the depository of the country's gold reserve.

the federal trade commission guards against trade abuses and unfair

business practices by conducting investigations and holding hearings on


the general accounting office is an arm of the legislative branch that

oversees expenditures by the executive branch. It is headed by the

comptroller general of the United States. It settles or

adjusts—independently of the executive departments—all claims and demands

by or against the federal government, and all money accounts in which the

government is concerned. It also checks the ledger accounts of all federal

disbursement and collection officers to see that public funds have been

paid out legally.

the general services administration controls much of the physical property

of the federal government. It is responsible for the purchase, supply,

operation and maintenance of federal property, buildings and equipment, and

for the sale of surplus items.

the interstate commerce commission regulates the rates and practices in

interstate commerce of all common carriers, such as railroads, buses,

trucks, and shipping on inland waterways. It supervises the issuance of

stocks and bonds by common carriers and enforces safety laws.


1958 to run the U.S. space program, placed the first American satellites

and astronauts in orbit, and launched the Apollo spacecraft that landed men

on the moon in 1969. Today, NASA conducts research aboard Earth-orbiting

satellites and interplanetary probes, explores new concepts in advanced

aerospace technology, and operates the U.S. fleet of manned space shuttles.

In the 1990s, NASA will assemble, in space, the components for a permanent

space station manned by international crews from the United States, Europe

and Japan.


development of American arts, literature and scholarship, through grants to

individuals, groups, institutions and state agencies.

the national labor relations board administers the principal U.S. labor

law, the National Labor Relations Act. The Board is vested with the power

to prevent or remedy unfair labor practices and to safeguard employees'

rights to organize and determine through elections whether to have unions

as their bargaining representative.

the national science foundation was created to strengthen basic research

and education in the sciences in the United States. It grants funds for

research and education programs to universities and other institutions, and

coordinates the science information activities of the federal government.

the office of national drug control policy, created in 1988 to raise the

profile of the U.S. government's fight against illegal drugs, coordinates

efforts of such agencies as the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the

Customs Service and the Coast Guard.

THE OFFICE OF PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT in 1979 assumed functions of the Civil

Service Commission, which was created in 1883 to establish a merit system

for government service and to eliminate politics from public appointments.

The agency holds competitive examinations across the country to select

qualified workers for over three million government posts. It also sponsors

training programs to increase the effectiveness of government employees.

the peace corps, founded in 1961, trains volunteers to serve in foreign

countries for two years. Peace Corps volunteers, now working in more than

60 nations, assist in agricultural-rural development, small business,

health, natural resources conservation and education.

THE SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION was established to protect investors

who buy stocks and bonds. Federal laws require companies that plan to raise

money by selling their own securities to file facts about their operations

with the commission. The commission has powers to prevent or punish fraud

in the sale of securities, and is authorized to regulate stock exchanges.

the small business administration lends money to small businesses, aids

victims of floods and other natural disasters, and helps secure contracts

for small businesses to supply goods and services to the federal



economic assistance programs designed to help the people in developing

countries develop their human and economic resources, increase their

productive capacities, and improve the quality of human life. The USAID

administrator also serves as director of the U.S. International Development

Cooperation Agency, which serves as the focal point for U.S. participation

in such organizations as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Organization

of American States (OAS) Technical Assistance Funds program, the World Bank

Group, and along with the Department of Agriculture, the Food for Peace



U.S. participation in international negotiations on arms limitation and

disarmament. It represents the United States on international arms control

commissions and supports research on arms control and disarmament.


understanding of the United States in other countries through the

dissemination abroad of information about the nation, its people, culture

and policies. USIA also administers a number of two-way educational and

cultural exchange programs, such as the Fulbright Program, with foreign

nations. It provides assistance to foreign press and television journalists

covering the United States. The Agency also advises the president and the

various departments of the government on foreign opinion concerning U.S.

policies and programs.

the united states postal service is operated by an autonomous public

corporation that replaced the Post Office Department in 1971. The Postal

Service is responsible for the collection, transportation and delivery of

the mails, and for the operation of thousands of local post offices across

the country. It also provides international mail service through the

Universal Postal Union and other agreements with foreign countries. An

independent Postal Rate Commission, also created in 1971, sets the rates

for different classes of mail.



Article I of the Constitution grants all legislative powers of the federal

government to a Congress divided into two chambers. a Senate and a House of

Representatives. The Senate, the smaller of the two, is composed of two

members for each state as provided by the Constitution, Membership in the

House is based on population and its size is therefore not specified in the


For more than 100 years after the adoption of the Constitution, senators

were not elected by direct vote of the people but were chosen by state

legislatures. Senators were looked on as representatives of their home

states. Their duty was to ensure that their states were treated equally in

all legislation. The 17th Amendment, adopted in 1913, provided for direct

election of the Senate.

The delegates to the Constitutional Convention reasoned that if two

separate groups—one representing state governments and one representing the

people—must both approve every proposed law, there would be little danger

of Congress passing laws hurriedly or carelessly. One house could always

check the other in the manner of the British Parliament. Passage of the

17th Amendment did not substantially alter this balance of power between

the two houses.

While there was intense debate in the Convention over the makeup and

powers of Congress, many delegates believed that the legislative branch

would be relatively unimportant. A few believed that the Congress would

concern itself largely with external affairs, leaving domestic matters to

state and local governments. These views were clearly wide of the mark. The

Congress has proved to be exceedingly active, with broad powers and

authority in all matters of national concern. While its strength vis-a-vis

the executive branch has waxed and waned at different periods of American

history, the Congress has never been impotent or a rubber stamp for

presidential decisions.


The Constitution requires that U.S. senators must be at least 30 years of

age, citizens of the United States for at least nine years, and residents

of the states from which they are elected. Members of the House of

Representatives must be at least 25, citizens for seven years, and

residents of the states which send them to Congress. The states may set

additional requirements for election to Congress, but the Constitution

gives each house the power to determine the qualifications of its members.

Each state is entitled to two senators. Thus, Rhode Island, the smallest

state, with an area of about 3,156 square kilometers has the same

senatorial representation as Alaska, the biggest state, with an area of

some 1,524,640 square kilometers. Wyoming, with 490,000 persons in 1987,

has representation equal to that of California, with its 1987 population of


The total number of members of the House of Representatives has been

determined by Congress. That number is then divided among the states

according to their populations. Regardless of its population, every state

is constitutionally guaranteed at least one member of the House of

Representatives. At present, six states—Alaska, Delaware, North Dakota,

South Dakota, Vermont and Wyoming—have only one representative. On the

other hand, six states have more than 20 representatives—California alone

has 45.

The Constitution provides for a national census each 10 years and a

redistribution of House seats according to population shifts. Under the

original constitutional provision, the number of representatives was to be

no more than one for each 30,000 citizens. There were 65 members in the

first House, and the number was increased to 106 after the first census.

Had the one-to-30,000 formula been adhered to permanently, population

growth in the United States would have brought the total number of

representatives to about 7,000. Instead, the formula has been adjusted over

the years, and today the House is composed of 435 members, roughly one for

each 530,000 persons in the United States.

State legislatures divide the states into congressional districts, which

must be substantially equal in population. Every two years, the voters of

each district choose a representative for Congress.

Senators are chosen in statewide elections held in even-numbered years.

The senatorial term is six years, and every two years one-third of the

Senate stands for election. Hence, two-thirds of the senators are always

persons with some legislative experience at the national level.

It is theoretically possible for the House to be composed entirely of

legislative novices. In practice, however, most members are reelected

several times and the House, like the Senate, can always count on a core

group of experienced legislators.

Since members of the House serve two-year terms, the life of a Congress

is considered to be two years. The 20th Amendment provides that the

Congress will meet in regular session each January 3, unless Congress fixes

a different date. The Congress remains in session until its members vote to

adjourn—usually late in the year. The president may call a special session

when he or she thinks it necessary. Sessions are held in the Capitol in

Washington, D.C.


Each house of Congress has the power to introduce legislation on any

subject except revenue bills, which must originate in the House of

Representatives. The large states may thus appear to have more influence

over the public purse than the small states. In practice, however, each

house can vote against legislation passed by the other house. The Senate

may disapprove a House revenue bill—or any bill, for that matter—or add

amendments which change its nature. In that event, a conference committee

made up of members from both houses must work out a compromise acceptable

to both sides before the bill becomes law.

The Senate also has certain powers especially reserved to that body,

including the authority to confirm presidential appointments of high

officials and ambassadors of the federal government as well as authority to

ratify all treaties by a two-thirds vote. Unfavorable action in either

instance nullifies executive action.

In the case of impeachment of federal officials, the House has the sole

right to bring charges of misconduct that can lead to an impeachment trial.

The Senate has the sole power to try impeachment cases and to find

officials guilty or not guilty. A finding of guilt results in the removal

of the federal official from public office.

The broad powers of the whole Congress are spelled out in the eighth

section of the first article of the Constitution:

— to levy and collect taxes;

— to borrow money for the public treasury;

— to make rules and regulations governing commerce among the states and

with foreign countries;

— to make uniform rules for the naturalization of foreign citizens;

— to coin money, state its value, and provide for the punishment of


— to set the standards for weights and measures;

— to establish bankruptcy laws for the country as a whole;

— to establish post offices and post roads;

— to issue patents and copyrights;

— to set up a system of federal courts;

— to punish piracy;

— to declare war;

— to raise and support armies;

— to provide for a navy;

— to call out the militia to enforce federal laws, suppress lawlessness or

repel invasions by foreign powers;

— to make all laws for the District of Columbia; and

— to make all laws necessary to enforce the Constitution.

A few of these powers are now outdated—the District of Columbia today is

largely self-governing—but they remain in effect. The 10th Amendment sets

definite limits on congressional authority, by providing that powers not

delegated to the national government are reserved to the states or to the

people. In addition, the Constitution specifically forbids certain acts by

Congress. It may not:

— suspend the writ of habeas corpus, unless necessary in time of rebellion

or invasion;

— pass laws which condemn persons for crimes or unlawful acts without a


— pass any law which retroactively makes a specific act a crime;

— levy direct taxes on citizens, except on the basis of a census already


— tax exports from any one state;

— give specially favorable treatment in commerce or taxation to the

seaports of any state or to the vessels using them; and

— authorize any titles of nobility.


A congressman once observed that "Congress is a collection of committees

that come together in a chamber periodically to approve one another's

actions. " That statement correctly identifies the standing and permanent

committees that are the nerve centers of the U.S. Congress. In a recent two-

year session of Congress, for example, members proposed a total of I], 602

bills in the House and 4,080 in the Senate. For each of these bills, the

committees responsible had to study, weigh arguments [or and against, hear

witnesses and debate changes, before the bills ever reached the House or

Senate floors. Out of almost ] 5,000 measures introduced, only 664—fewer

than six percent—were enacted into law.

The Constitution does not specifically call for congressional

committees. As the nation grew, however, so did the need for investigating

pending legislation more thoroughly. The committee system began in 1789,

when House members found themselves bogged down in endless discussions of

proposed new laws. The first committees dealt with Revolutionary War

claims, post roads and territories, and trade with other countries.

Throughout the years, committees have formed and disbanded in response to

political, social and economic changes. For example, there is no longer any

need for a Revolutionary War claims committee, but both houses of Congress

have a Veterans' Affairs committee.

Today, there are 22 standing committees in the House and 16 in the

Senate, plus four joint permanent committees with members from both houses:

Library of Congress, printing, taxation and economics. In addition, each

house can name special, or select, committees to study specific problems:

Because of an increase in workload, the standing committees have also

spawned some 300 subcommittees. Almost 25,000 persons help with research,

information-gathering and analyses of problems and programs in Congress.

Recently, during one week of hearings, committee and subcommittee members

discussed topics ranging from financing of television broadcasting to the

safety of nuclear plants to international commodity agreements.

And what do ail these "little legislatures" actually do? After all the

facts are gathered, the committee decides whether to report a new bill

favorably or with a recommendation that it be passed with amendments.

Sometimes, the bill will be set aside, or tabled, which effectively ends

its consideration. When bills are reported out of committee and passed by

the full House or Senate, however, another committee goes into action,

ironing out any differences between the House and Senate versions of the

same bill. This "conference committee, " consisting of members of both

houses, completes a bill to all members' satisfaction, then sends it to the

House and Senate floors for final discussion and a vote. If passed, the

bill goes to the president for his signature.

Congressional committees are vital because they do the nuts-and-bolts job

of weighing the proposals, hammering them into shape or killing them

completely. They continue to play a large part in the preparation and

consideration of laws that will help shape the United States in its third




|Agriculture |Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry |

|Appropriations |Appropriations |

|Armed Services |Armed Services |

|Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs |Banking. Finance and Urban Affairs |

|Budget |Budget |

|District of Columbia |Commerce, Science and Transportation |

|Education and Labor |Energy and Natural Resources |

|Energy and Commerce |Environment and Public Works |

|Foreign Affairs |Finance |

|Government Operations |Foreign Relations |

|House Administration |Governmental Affairs |

|Interior and Insular Affairs |Judiciary |

|Judiciary |Labor and Human Resources |

|Merchant Marine and Fisheries |Rules and Administration |

|Post Office and Civil Service |Small Business |

|Public Works and Transportation |Veterans' Affairs |

|Rules | |

|Science, Space and Technology | |

|Small Business | |

|Standards of Official Conduct | |

|Veterans' Affairs | |

|Ways and Means | |


The Constitution provides that the vice president shall be president of the

Senate. He or she has no vote, except in the case of a tie. The Senate

chooses a president pro tempore to preside when the vice president is

absent. The House of Representatives chooses its own presiding officer—the

speaker of the House. The speaker and the president pro tempore are always

members of the political party with the largest representation in each


At the beginning of each new Congress, members of the political parties

select floor leaders and other officials to manage the flow of proposed

legislation. These officials, along with the presiding officers and

committee chairmen, exercise strong influence over the making of laws.


One of the major characteristics of the Congress is the dominant role

committees play in its proceedings. Committees have assumed their present-

day importance by evolution, not by constitutional design, since the

Constitution makes no provision for their establishment.

At present the Senate has 16 standing (or permanent) committees: the

House of Representatives has 22. Each specializes in specific areas of

legislation: foreign affairs, defense, banking, agriculture, commerce,

appropriations and other fields. Every bill introduced in either house is

referred to a committee for study and recommendation. The committee may

approve, revise, kill or ignore any measure referred to it. It is nearly

impossible for a bill to reach the House or Senate floor without first

winning committee approval. In the House, a petition to discharge a bill

from a committee requires the signatures of 218 members; in the Senate, a

majority of all members is required. In practice, such discharge motions

only rarely receive the required support.

The majority party in each house controls the committee process.

Committee chairmen are selected by a caucus of party members or specially

designated groups of members. Minority parties are proportionally

represented on the committees according to their strength in each house.

Bills are introduced by a variety of methods. Some are drawn up by

standing committees; some by special committees created to deal with

specific legislative issues; and some may be suggested by the president or

other executive officers. Citizens and organizations outside the Congress

may suggest legislation to members, and individual members themselves may

initiate bills. After introduction, bills are sent to designated committees

which, in most cases, schedule a series of public hearings to permit

presentation of views by persons who support or oppose the legislation. The

hearing process, which can last several weeks or months, opens the

legislative process to public participation.

One virtue of the committee system is that it permits members of

Congress and their staffs to amass a considerable degree of expertise in

various legislative fields. In the early days of the republic, when the

population was small and the duties of the federal government narrowly

circumscribed, such expertise was not as important. Each congressman was a

generalist and dealt knowledgeably with all fields of interest. The

complexity of national life today calls for special knowledge, which means

that elected representatives often acquire expertise in one or two areas of

public policy.

When a committee has acted favorably on a bill, the proposed legislation

is then sent to the floor for open debate. In the Senate, the rules permit

virtually unlimited debate. In the House, because of the large number of

members, the Rules Committee usually sets limits. When debate is ended,

members vote either to approve the bill, defeat it, table it—which means

setting it aside and is tantamount to defeat—or return it to committee. A

bill passed by one house is sent to the other for action. If the bill is

amended by the second house, a conference committee composed of members of

both houses attempts to reconcile the differences.

Once passed by both houses, the bill is sent to the president, for

constitutionally the president must act on a bill for it to become law. The

president has the option of signing the bill—by which it becomes law—or

vetoing it. A bill vetoed by the president must be reapproved by a two-

thirds vote of both houses to become law.

The president may also refuse either to sign or veto a bill. In that

case, the bill becomes law without his signature 10 days after it reaches

him (not counting Sundays). The single exception to this rule is when

Congress adjourns after sending a bill to the president and before the 10-

day period has expired; his refusal to take any action then negates the

bill—a process known as the "pocket veto."


One of the most important nonlegislative functions of the Congress is the

power to investigate. This power is usually delegated to committees—either

the standing committees, special committees set up for a specific purpose,

or joint committees composed of members of both houses. Investigations are

conducted to gather information on the need for future legislation, to test

the effectiveness of laws already passed, to inquire into the

qualifications and performance of members and officials of the other

branches, and on rare occasions, to lay the groundwork for impeachment

proceedings. Frequently, committees call on outside experts to assist in

conducting investigative hearings and to make detailed studies of issues.

There are important corollaries to the investigative power. One is the

power to publicize investigations and their results. Most committee

hearings are open to the public and are widely reported in the mass media.

Congressional investigations thus represent one important tool available to

lawmakers to inform the citizenry and arouse public interest in national

issues. Congressional committees also have the power to compel testimony

from unwilling witnesses, and to cite for contempt of Congress witnesses

who refuse to testify and for perjury those who give false testimony.


In contrast to European parliamentary systems, the selection and behavior

of U.S. legislators has little to do with central party discipline. Each of

the major American political parties is basically a coalition of local and

state organizations which join together as a functioning national

party—Republican or Democratic—during the presidential elections at four-

year intervals. Thus the members of Congress owe their positions to their

local or state electorate, not to the national party leadership nor to

their congressional colleagues. As a result, the legislative behavior of

representatives and senators tends to be individualistic and idiosyncratic,

reflecting the great variety of electorates represented and the freedom

that comes from having built a loyal personal constituency.

Congress is thus a collegial and not a hierarchical body. Power does not

flow from the top down, as in a corporation, but in practically every

direction. There is only minimal centralized authority, since the power to

punish or reward is slight. Congressional policies are made by shifting

coalitions which may vary from issue to issue. Sometimes, where there are

conflicting pressures—from the White House and from important economic or

ethnic groups—legislators will use the rules of procedure to delay a

decision so as to avoid alienating an influential sector. A matter may be

postponed on the grounds that the relevant committee held insufficient

public hearings. Or Congress may direct an agency to prepare a detailed

report before an issue is considered. Or a measure may be put aside

("tabled") by either house, thus effectively defeating it without rendering

a judgment on its substance.

There are informal or unwritten norms of behavior that often determine

the assignments and influence of a particular member. "Insiders,"

representatives and senators who concentrate on their legislative duties,

may be more powerful within the halls of Congress than "outsiders," who

gain recognition by speaking out on national issues. Members are expected

to show courtesy toward their colleagues and to avoid personal attacks, no

matter how extreme or unpalatable their opponents' policies may be. Members

are also expected to specialize in a few policy areas rather than claim

expertise in the whole range of legislative concerns. Those who conform to

these informal rules are more likely to be appointed to prestigious

committees or at least to committees that affect the interests of a

significant portion of their constituents.


Of the numerous techniques that Congress has adopted to influence the

executive branch, one of the most effective is the oversight function.

Congressional oversight prevents waste and fraud; protects civil liberties

and individual rights; ensures executive compliance with the law; gathers

information for making laws and educating the public: and evaluates

executive performance. It applies to Cabinet departments, executive

agencies, regulatory commissions and the presidency.

Congress' oversight function takes many forms:

—committee inquiries and hearings;

—formal consultations with and reports from the executive;

—Senate advice and consent for executive nominations and treaties;

—House impeachment proceedings and subsequent Senate trials;

—House and Senate proceedings under the 25th Amendment in the event that

the president becomes disabled, or the office of the vice president falls


—informal meetings between legislators and executive officials;

—congressional membership on governmental commissions; and

—studies by congressional committees and support agencies such as the

Congressional Budget Office, the General Accounting Office or the Office of

Technology Assessment—all arms of Congress.

The oversight power of Congress has helped to force officials out of

office, change policies and provide new statutory controls over the

executive. In 1949, for example, probes by special Senate investigating

subcommittees revealed corruption among high officials in the Truman

administration. This resulted in the reorganization of certain agencies and

the formation of a special White House commission to study corruption in

the government.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's televised hearings in the late

1960s helped to mobilize opposition to the Vietnam War. Congress' 1973

Watergate investigation exposed White House officials who illegally used

their positions for political advantage, and the House Judiciary

Committee's impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon the

following year ended his presidency. Select committee inquiries in 1975 and

1976 identified serious abuses by intelligence agencies and initiated new

legislation to control certain intelligence activities.

In 1983, congressional inquiry into a proposal to consolidate border

inspection operations of the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Immigration

and Naturalization Service raised questions about the executive's authority

to make such a change without new legislation. In 1987, oversight efforts

disclosed statutory violations in the executive branch's secret arms sales

to Iran and the diversion of arms profits to anti-government forces in

Nicaragua, known as the contras. Congressional findings resulted in

proposed legislation to prevent similar occurrences.

Oversight power is an essential check in monitoring the presidency and

controlling public policy.



The third branch of the federal government, the judiciary, consists of a

system of courts spread throughout the country, headed by the Supreme Court

of the United States.

A system of state courts existed before the Constitution was drafted.

There was considerable controversy among the delegates to the

Constitutional Convention as to whether a federal court system was needed,

and whether it should supplant the state courts. As in other matters under

debate, a compromise was reached in which the state courts were continued

while the Constitution mandated a federal judiciary with limited power.

Article III of the Constitution states the basis for the federal court


The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme

Court, and such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time

ordain and establish.

With this guide, the first Congress divided the nation into districts

and created federal courts for each district. From that beginning has

evolved the present structure: the Supreme Court, 11 courts of appeals, 91

district courts, and three courts of special jurisdiction. Congress today

retains the power to create and abolish federal courts, as well as to

determine the number of judges in the federal judiciary system. It cannot,

however, abolish the Supreme Court.

The judicial power extends to cases arising under the Constitution; laws

and treaties of the United States; admiralty and maritime cases; cases

affecting ambassadors, ministers and consuls of foreign countries in the

United States; controversies in which the U.S. government is a party; and

controversies between states (or their citizens) and foreign nations (or

their citizens or subjects). The 11th Amendment removed from federal

jurisdiction cases in which citizens of one state were the plaintiffs and

the government of another state was the defendant. It did not disturb

federal jurisdiction in cases in which a state government is a plaintiff

and a citizen of another state the defendant.

The power of the federal courts extends both to civil actions for

damages and other redress, and to criminal cases arising under federal law.

Article III has resulted in a complex set of relationships between state

and federal courts. Ordinarily, federal courts do not hear cases arising

under the laws of individual states. However, some cases over which federal

courts have jurisdiction may also be heard and decided by state courts.

Both court systems thus have exclusive jurisdiction in some areas and

concurrent jurisdiction in others.

The Constitution safeguards judicial independence by providing that

federal judges shall hold office "during good behavior"—in practice, until

they die, retire or resign, although a judge who commits an offense while

in office may be impeached in the same way as the president or other

officials of the federal government. U.S. judges are appointed by the

president and confirmed by the Senate. Congress also determines the pay

scale of judges.


The Supreme Court is the highest court of the United States, and the only

one specifically created by the Constitution. A decision of the Supreme

Court cannot be appealed to any other court. Congress has the power to fix

the number of judges sitting on the Court and, within limits, decide what

kind of cases it may hear, but it cannot change the powers given to the

Supreme Court by the Constitution itself.

The Constitution is silent on the qualifications for judges. There is no

requirement that judges be lawyers, although, in fact, all federal judges

and Supreme Court justices have been members of the bar.

Since the creation of the Supreme Court almost 200 years ago, there have

been slightly more than 100 justices. The original Court consisted of a

chief justice and five associate justices. For the next 80 years, the

number of justices varied until, in 1869, the complement was fixed at one

chief justice and eight associates. The chief justice is the executive

officer of the Court but, in deciding cases, has only one vote, as do the

associate justices.

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in only two kinds of cases:

those involving foreign dignitaries and those in which a state is a party.

All other cases reach the Court on appeal from lower courts.

Of the several thousand cases filed annually, the Court usually hears

only about 150. Most of the cases involve interpretation of the law or of

the intent of Congress in passing a piece of legislation. A significant

amount of the work of the Supreme Court, however, consists of determining

whether legislation or executive acts conform to the Constitution. This

power of judicial review is not specifically provided for by the

Constitution. Rather, it is doctrine inferred by the Court from its reading

of the Constitution, and forcefully stated in the landmark Marbury vs.

Madison case of 1803. In its decision in that case, the Court held that "a

legislative act contrary to the Constitution is not law," and further

observed that "it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial

department to say what the law is." The doctrine has also been extended to

cover the activities of state and local governments.

Decisions of the Court need not be unanimous; a simple majority

prevails, provided at least six justices—the legal quorum—participate in

the decision. In split decisions, the Court usually issues a majority and a

minority—or dissenting—opinion, both of which may form the basis for future

decisions by the Court. Often justices will write separate concurring

opinions when they agree with a decision, but for reasons other than those

cited by the majority.


The second highest level of the federal judiciary is made up of the courts

of appeals, created in 1891 to facilitate the disposition of cases and ease

the burden on the Supreme Court. The United States is divided into 11

separate appeals regions, each served by a court of appeals with from three

to 15 sitting judges.

The courts of appeals review decisions of the district courts (trial

courts with federal jurisdiction) within their areas. They are also

empowered to review orders of the independent regulatory agencies, such as

the Federal Trade Commission, in cases where the internal review mechanisms

of the agencies have been exhausted and there still exists substantial

disagreement over legal points.

Below the courts of appeals are the district courts. The 50 states are

divided into 89 districts so that litigants may have a trial within easy

reach. Additionally, there is one in the District of Columbia and one in

the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, not a state of the union, but part of the

United States. From one to 27 judges sit in each of the district courts.

Depending on case load, a judge from one district may temp!) rarity sit in

another district. Congress fixes the boundaries of the districts according

to population, size and volume of work. Some of the smaller states

constitute a district by themselves. while the larger states, such as New

York, California and Texas, have four districts each.

Except in the District of Columbia, judges must be residents of the

district in which they permanently serve. District courts hold their

sessions at periodic intervals in different cities of the district.

Most cases and controversies heard by these courts involve federal

offenses such as misuse of the mails, theft of federal property, and

violations of pure food, banking and counterfeiting laws. These are the

only federal courts where grand juries indict those accused of crimes, and

juries decide the cases.


In addition to the federal courts of general jurisdiction, it has been

necessary from time to time to set up courts for special purposes. These

are known as "legislative" courts because they were created by

congressional action. Judges in these courts, like their peers in other

federal courts, are appointed for life terms by the president, with Senate


Perhaps the most important of these special courts is the Court of

Claims, established in 1855 to render judgment on monetary claims against

the United States. Other special courts include the Customs Court, which

has exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions involving taxes or quotas on

imported goods, and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals which hears

appellate motions from decisions of the Customs Court and the U.S. Patent



Although the Constitution has changed in many aspects since it was first

adopted, its basic principles remain the same now as in 1789:

— The three main branches of government are separate and distinct from one

another. The powers given to each are delicately balanced by the powers of

the other two. Each branch serves as a check on potential excesses of the


— The Constitution, together with laws passed according to its provisions,

and treaties entered into by the president and approved by the Senate,

stands above all other laws, executive acts and regulations.

— All persons are equal before the law and are equally entitled to its

protection. All states are equal, and none can receive special treatment

from the federal government. Within

the limits of the Constitution, each state must recognize and respect the

laws of the others. State governments, like the federal government, must be

democratic in form, with final authority resting with the people.

— The people have the right to change their form of national government by

legal means defined in the Constitution itself.

Few Americans, however, would defend their country's record as perfect.

American democracy is in a constant state of evolution. As Americans review

their history, they recognize errors of performance and failures to act,

which have delayed the nation's progress. They know that more mistakes will

be made in the future.

Yet the U.S. government still represents the people, and is dedicated to

the preservation of liberty. The right to criticize the government

guarantees the right to change it when it strays from the essential

principles of the Constitution. So long as the preamble to the Constitution

is heeded, the republic will stand. In the words of Abraham Lincoln,

"government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not

perish from the earth."




The Bill of Rights______________________






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