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2.15 Policy and the Branches of Government

6 min readfebruary 4, 2023

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

S

Samantha Howey


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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A policy is a set of guidelines, rules, or principles that are put in place by a government or other organization to achieve specific goals. The three branches of government in the United States are the legislative branch, executive branch, and judicial branch. The legislative branch makes the laws, the executive branch enforces the laws, and the judicial branch interprets the laws. Each branch has its own responsibilities, powers, and limitations, and they work together to balance the powers of the government.

What does each branch do?

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch, also known as the U.S. Congress, is one of the three branches of the federal government of the United States. Its primary responsibility is to make laws. The legislative branch is comprised of two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The Senate has 100 members, two from each state, and serves as the upper chamber of Congress. The House of Representatives has 435 members, with the number of representatives from each state based on population, and serves as the lower chamber of Congress.
Together, the Senate and the House of Representatives hold the power to tax, regulate commerce, declare war, and control government spending. They also have the power to approve presidential appointments and ratify treaties.
The legislative branch is an important component of the U.S. system of checks and balances, as it serves as a counterbalance to the powers of the executive branch and the judicial branch.

Example

Let's say a group of citizens is concerned about the increase in traffic accidents caused by distracted driving. They want to see stricter laws put in place to reduce the number of accidents.
The citizens or an advocacy group would then approach their representative in the House of Representatives with their proposal. The representative would draft a bill addressing the issue of distracted driving and submit it to the House of Representatives.
The bill would then go through a series of hearings, debates, and votes in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. If both houses approve the bill, it would then go to the President for approval.
If the President signs the bill into law, it becomes a part of the U.S. code. The executive branch would then be responsible for enforcing the new law, and the judicial branch would interpret the law if there are any challenges or disputes.

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch of the U.S. government is responsible for interpreting the laws and the Constitution. The judicial branch is comprised of the federal court system, including the Supreme Court and various lower federal courts.
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the land and has the final say on all constitutional issues. The other federal courts are responsible for hearing cases that involve federal law. The judicial branch also has the power to hear cases involving disputes between states and to hear cases brought against the federal government.
The judges in the federal court system are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. They hold their positions for life, subject to good behavior, to ensure their independence and impartiality in interpreting the laws.
The judicial branch plays a critical role in the U.S. system of checks and balances by serving as an independent arbiter of the law. Its decisions help to ensure that the government operates within the bounds of the Constitution and that the rights of individuals are protected.

Example

Let's say a person is arrested for a crime and goes to trial in a state court. The defendant believes that their rights under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, were violated during the arrest.
If the defendant is found guilty in the state court, they have the right to appeal the decision to a higher court. The case may eventually end up in the federal court system, where the defendant can argue that their Fourth Amendment rights were violated.
The federal court would then hear the case and make a decision based on the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and the facts of the case. The decision of the federal court would be final, unless the defendant decides to appeal to the Supreme Court.
If the Supreme Court agrees to hear the case, it would make a final decision on the interpretation of the Fourth Amendment and the rights of the defendant. The decision of the Supreme Court would set a legal precedent for future cases involving similar issues.

Executive Branch

The executive branch of the U.S. government is responsible for enforcing the laws and implementing the policies set by the legislative branch. The head of the executive branch is the President of the United States, who is also the commander-in-chief of the military.
The executive branch includes the Vice President, the Cabinet (which is made up of the heads of various executive departments), and a number of executive agencies that are responsible for carrying out specific functions. For example, the Department of Justice is responsible for enforcing the law and protecting the rights of citizens, while the Department of Defense is responsible for the military.
The President has the power to veto laws passed by Congress, and the Senate must approve presidential nominations for federal judges, ambassadors, and executive branch officials. The President also has the power to make treaties with other countries, as long as the treaties are approved by two-thirds of the Senate.
The executive branch plays a critical role in the U.S. system of checks and balances by enforcing the laws and implementing the policies set by the legislative branch. The President serves as the chief executive of the country and has significant powers, but these powers are also limited by the Constitution and by the other branches of government.

Example

Let's say the legislative branch passes a law to increase funding for renewable energy research. The law would then be sent to the President for approval.
If the President signs the bill into law, it becomes a part of the U.S. code. The executive branch would then be responsible for implementing the new law and making sure that the funding for renewable energy research is properly allocated and used.
The Department of Energy, for example, would be responsible for managing the funding for renewable energy research and would work with researchers, universities, and private companies to develop new technologies and advance the field.
The executive branch would also be responsible for enforcing the new law and making sure that the funding is used as intended. If there are any issues or challenges with the implementation of the law, the executive branch would work to resolve them.

Interactions

The interactions between the three branches of government in the U.S. are complex and multifaceted, and each branch must work to balance its powers and responsibilities with those of the other branches. This is all part of the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.
The legislative branch makes the laws and sets the policy, but the executive branch is responsible for implementing those laws and policies through the bureaucracy. The judiciary is responsible for interpreting the laws and ensuring that they are constitutional.
This means that there is often a complex interplay between the branches as they work to implement policy and resolve conflicts. For example, the executive branch may argue that certain laws passed by the legislative branch are too restrictive or unworkable, while the legislative branch may argue that the executive branch is not enforcing the laws as intended. The judiciary may also become involved if there are disputes over the interpretation of the laws or the constitutionality of a particular policy.
This interplay can be difficult, as each branch must struggle to maintain its own accountability while also cooperating with the other branches. However, it is an essential aspect of the U.S. system of government, and it helps to ensure that the government operates in a manner that is consistent with the Constitution and protects the rights of the people.

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