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Table of Contents
A federal system of government is one that divides the powers of government between the national (federal) government, and state and local government in which each level has sovereignty in some areas and shares powers in other areas.
See the fact file below for more information on the Federal Government or alternatively, you can download our 30-page Federal Government worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- A federal government is a hierarchical system of government under which two levels of government exercise a range of control over the same geographic area.
- Power is diffused among the larger, stronger, central government of a nation, and the smaller state and regional governments within that nation by assigning certain responsibilities to each sector so that the central government has its own job to do, as do the state and local governments.
Branches of Federal Government
- To ensure a separation of powers, the United States Federal Government is made up of three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
- Each branch has its own powers and responsibilities, including working with the other branches, to ensure the government is effective and citizens’ rights are protected.
- The legislative branch is responsible for establishing statutory laws. In a federal government, the legislative branch is headed by Congress. The Congress is bicameral, and is divided into two houses: the Senate, and the House of Representatives.
- Members of the House and Senate may draft and propose bills, and present them to the Congress for further discussion and voting. Legislation must pass both houses before it is presented to the President to be signed into law.
- Bills that are approved by majority of votes in both houses are then forwarded to the President for signing. Should the President veto it, the bill is sent back to Congress where members may vote to overrule the President’s decision.
- The US Senate is composed of 100 senators, with two senators representing each of the nation’s 50 states who serve six-year terms, with no limit on the number of terms they may serve.
- Also called the “Upper House,” it is considered more deliberative than the House of Representatives.
- While sharing broad legislative powers with the House of Representatives, the Senate has several unique powers to itself: confirm presidential appointments to the Supreme Court, lower federal courts, and key positions within the Executive Branch before the appointees can take office.
- The Senate also approves or rejects international treaties negotiated by the President.
- In cases of impeachment of the President or a member of the Supreme Court, the full Senate conducts the trial and acts as jury.
- House of Representatives
- The House of Representatives or “Lower House” is comprised of 435 members, and the number of members from each state depends on the total population of the states they represent.
- All Representatives serve two-year terms with no limit on the number of terms they may serve, and all are elected at the same time.
- Each Representative is elected from a defined geographic area within a state called a Congressional District.
- The members of the House elect a Speaker of the House, who is the leading officer of the chamber and, in practice, is a member of the majority party.
- Special powers and responsibilities of the House not shared with the Senate include the power to bring charges of impeachment against the President and Supreme Court Justices.
- The House also selects the President in cases where no presidential candidate receives a majority of electoral votes. In such cases, each state delegation has one vote.
- Executive Branch
- The Executive Branch is by far the largest branch of the federal government, headed by the President, who serves a four-year term.
- The Vice President is elected at the same time, and is first in line to assume the presidency should the President die, become incapacitated, or be removed from office upon impeachment and conviction.
- Although the Executive Branch shares powers co-equally with the other two branches of government, the President is the most powerful individual in the government.
- Among the powers and roles of the President are: appointing Supreme Court justices and lower federal court judges; appointing a cabinet of department secretaries and agency heads; acting as Commander-in-Chief of the military; acting as titular head of state; negotiating international treaties and treaties with American Indian tribes, all of which must either be confirmed or ratified by the Senate.
- The President also has the power to veto legislation passed by Congress, and grant pardons and reprieves for federal crimes.
- In addition, the President can influence the nation’s laws through various actions through issuing executive orders, presidential memoranda, and proclamations.
- Finally, the President serves as the head of his or her political party, and can use the stature and visibility of the presidency to articulate political views and advance political objectives, both with the public and with members of his or her party in Congress.
- Executive Departments and Agencies
- Under the President and Vice President are 15 departments and numerous agencies which together make up the “government” who are responsible for administering the law, enforcing it, and delivering various governmental services.
- Each department is headed by a secretary, who is appointed to the position by the President subject to Senate confirmation. The departmental secretaries by law make up the President’s Cabinet, a group of people who advise the President on any subject relating to their responsibilities.
- In addition to the cabinet-level departments, there are numerous independent Executive Branch agencies and commissions, some of which are quite large. Some examples include the US Postal Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
- Of all the independent agencies, none is more independent than the Federal Reserve System, the nation’s central bank also known simply as “the Fed.”
- The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve is responsible for establishing the nation’s monetary policy, setting interest rates, and determining the supply of money.
- Decisions made by the Fed have far-reaching effects on the nation’s economy, interest rates, inflation, job creation, and international trade.
- In fact, many consider the Chairman of the Board of Governors to be the second most powerful individual in government after the President.
- Judicial Branch
- The judicial branch presides over the country’s court system, and it uses court cases to interpret and express the meaning and importance of the Constitution and the laws of the land.
- The US Supreme Court heads up the judicial branch, and its chief responsibility is to rule on whether or not something is permitted under the rules of the Constitution, meaning whether it is constitutional or unconstitutional.
- Members of the federal judiciary – which includes the Supreme Court, 13 US Courts of Appeals, and 94 federal judicial district courts – are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.
- Unlike the lower courts, justices on the Supreme Court do not have set term limits, and can serve for as many years as they like. Federal judges hold their seats until they resign, die, or are removed from office through impeachment by Congress.
- The rulings made by the Supreme Court are irreversible, and they set precedent for all related cases going forward.
Interpretation of Power
- The power to elucidate the constitution is shared equally by each branch of the federal government.
- Congress, for example, has translated its power under the commerce clause to institute such regulatory agencies as the Federal Communications Commission, National Labor Relations Board, and Securities and Exchange Commission.
- These agencies are often referred to as the fourth branch of the federal government since they exercise powers that are legislative, administrative, and judicial. However, in contrast to the three main branches, they were established and granted power by ordinary legislation and not by constitutional amendment.
- Correspondingly, the Congress has used implied power, based from the Constitution’s necessary and proper stipulation, to regulate matters concerning minimum wages, social security, welfare and healthcare; to rule out discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or physical disability in employment, public accommodations and housing; to delineate certain criminal activities carried on across state lines as federal offenses.
- The President
- The President of the United States has interpreted the Constitution by maintaining authority to take measures concerning internal and foreign issues.
- Through the State of the Union address, the power to veto legislation, and Congress’s conferring in the executive branch the responsibility for drafting the annual budget, the President has, in effect, become the chief legislator.
- As the nation’s chief executive officer, the President’s role has been extended to include the functions of chief peace officer. Having granted constitutional authority, presidents have utilized US troops, federal marshals, or state national guards to subdue labor strifes and racial violence to ensure national, state, and local security.
- The Supreme Court
- The Supreme Court possesses the authority to pronounce whether an action taken by the Congress or the Executive branch violates the Constitution.
- In making these decisions, the Supreme Court pertains to provisions in the Constitution to the circumstances of the act and examines precedent set by past federal laws and previous Court rulings.
- Contrary to the other two branches, the Supreme Court has steered clear of involving politics in its decision-making process.
Federal Government Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Federal Government across 30 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Federal Government worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a federal system of government which is one that divides the powers of government between the national (federal) government, and state and local government in which each level has sovereignty in some areas and shares powers in other areas.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Word Hunt
- Who’s Got the Power?
- Federal Nations
- The Cabinet
- Pros and Cons
- Fed Heads
- The Shutdown
- Walking Tour
- Speak Up!
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Link will appear as Federal Government Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, February 5, 2019
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.