Explanation of the US Government Structure

Government itself is a body. It has many parts. Same is true for the US government. Its structure is somewhat complex, but not hard to understand and of course, there is a reason for which many different parts are designed with it. Not all of them have the same power, yet are connected to one another. The entire arrangement of rules related them match those that are made for board games. Click the picture below to see all the branches. For short summary table of those involved in policy making scroll down.


On the top we have the constitution which dictates what basic rights the American citizens have and how government must be run. It begins with “We the People” as a signal that the power of the land belongs to its people. After this, it lists the do’s and don’ts for each branch of the government. This sets some limitations on them. The logic behind this is that if a branch becomes overly powerful it will begin to turn into a dictator, inhibiting the rights of other branches and citizens. This is practiced through check and balance system. According to it, if a Congress makes a law that does not sound fair for the people or government, President can block it through veto power. It may not mean much, for Congress can still reject the President’s veto through two thirds of votes from houses. But they may still not win if the judicial branch takes a look at the law and decides that it goes against the constitution. They can do the same with the President. Hence, no one has the full power. Most American laws are actually checked against Constitution to make sure that people do not lose their power. The only thing that has not come under its radar is foreign policy.

Executive Branch

This is where the President of United States falls. He sits in what is called as Executive Office of the President (EOP). Executive branch in whole basically is assigned the task of national policy implementation. Of course, how the policy is to be designed is first answered by Congress which falls under legislative branch. We will look into that shortly. Executive branch has three divisions which are:
Executive Office Agencies (EOP): Here we have the helping hands of the President in the form of officials. While some of them have direct connection to policy making, others give advice to the president regarding economy or budget.

Executive Departments: These are the offices running other national agencies. As of now, there are 15 executive departments. Newest among them is Department of Homeland Security. Constitution does not exactly make their establishment necessary. But they are still important in the sense that they focus on specific fields important to the nation. All chief members who happen to be the heads of these department are called secretaries. Together these people are known as cabinet of the President, but how the relationship between the two must go is not set in stone. Some Presidents in the past held meeting with the cabinet only for advice.  Cabinet members are paid almost the same amount in salary, but their importance in the eyes of EOP is not the same. In general, secretaries from Departments of Defense, Treasury and Justice are given more importance than the rest.

Independent Establishments (Agencies) and Government Corporations: These two are a bit different from each other and thus, needs separate explanation. This is how it goes:

Independent agencies: Agencies falling under independent establishments oversee rules and regulations of the nation, and or are for promotion of certain resolutions. They are of two types. The first one is directly connected to President. Their guardian is him. The second one is not under his control. The leader of independent agency is called either director or administrator and happens to take the seat as appointee of President, but by the approval of the Senate. Situation is a bit stick for his job position. The President has the right to get rid of him anytime. Independent agencies are not exactly fully independent. They rely on federal government for budget and are required to abide by laws.
Government corporations: Just as the title suggests, Government Corporation is any office that does business. However, it has three features. Firstly, it is declared as commercial. Second, it can generate its own money. Third, it is not restricted like the other government agencies. Just take a look at U.S Postal Service. It can make its own money. Hence, it is independent.

Legislative Branch

This one contains legislatures, but in two parts for which according to Constitution is bicameral. These parts are titled as houses of Senate and Representatives. Together they form Congress and represent their states. Their work in Washington DC involves designing bills or voting on them so they turn into laws. The two Houses are different in many ways.

Senate: It consists of only 100 elected people (2 from each state) known as Senators.  Senators are more influential and powerful than the Representatives. Constitution allows them to be not just voters, but also advisers. When President wishes to appoint someone for any federal department or Independent agency he must first get its approval from them. They also have the right to arrange impeachment trial if House of Representatives votes for it. Senators can stay in the House 6 years.

House of Representatives: As we learned earlier, these are less powerful legislators. But they are 435 in number. They are allocated based on the size of population of their states. As of now, California has the highest number of Representatives. But change may occur every 10 years because population size is never fixed. These Representatives are given the power to pick President for US if Electoral College fails in this task. They can also introduce revenue related bills and serve in a committee. Their Speaker is second in line to presidency with first being the Vice President. However, Representatives can serve only 2 years.

Judicial Branch

This where Supreme Court falls. The Judges serving in it are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. Their work involves interpreting laws passed by the Congress and figuring out whether certain decisions taken by lower courts or Presidents fall under Constitution or not. So in a way, they have the say in what is legal and illegal. Courts from all locations of the country are required to adhere to rules set by these Judges. No one has the right to go against their decisions. Judges can serve as long as possible.

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