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Structure and Functions of the USA Federal Government


The United States government is an organized and logical system that ensures a fair distribution of power for decision-making. It consists of such branches as legislative, executive, and legal, which have different functions and prevent the usurpation of power by representatives of another branch. In this way, the Constitution’s founders created a balance of power or a system of checks and balances to ensure the government’s fair and efficient work. This paper will study the functions of the US three branches of government, the balance of power, and its weaknesses, to understand how the main system that ensures decisions of national importance works.

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The Legislative Branch of Power

The legislative branch is represented by congressmen elected by the people. The body that represents the legislature is the bicameral Congress, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Each chamber has its functions, but together they carry out the duties of considering and passing laws, ratifying international treaties, and declaring war and peace.

The House of Representatives consists of 435 members, who are elected every two years and represent their states proportionally. In other words, the larger the state’s population, the more representatives of that state are members of the House. In addition, the House also has six non-voting members representing the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and four other territories of the United States (“The Legislative Branch,” n.d.). The House has several powers that are exclusively assigned to it, such as initiating revenue bills, the impeachment of federal officials, and electing the president in the event of the electoral college tie (“The Legislative Branch,” n.d.). In addition, the House reviews, amend, and pass all bills before the Senate and is part of the legislative process. Thus, the House has the power to initiate and consider laws and has the limited powers to oppose the Senate.

The main responsibility of the Senate as well as of the House is to consider and pass laws. The Senate has 100 members elected every six years, but part of the senators are renewed every two years due to a terms shift (“The Legislative Branch,” n.d.). The Senate has some exclusive powers, such as hearing cases of impeachment, including the President, ratifying treaties, and confirming the President’s appointments (“The Legislative Branch,” n.d.). In addition, the Senate is the last to consider and pass bills before signing them by the Presidents and can make an unlimited number of amendments. Thus, Congress has significant legislative powers that control or influence a significant part of decisions in the state.

The Executive Branch of Power

Executive power in the United States belongs to the President, as well as the Vice President, Cabinet, and federal agencies that report to the President. The direct responsibility of all these bodies is to enforce laws passed by Congress. At the same time, although the Cabinet and federal agencies have their powers, they are subordinate to the President, who has control over them.

The President is the head of state and government of the United States and the army’s Commander-in-Chief. The President’s rights and responsibilities are enshrined in Article II of the Constitution, which says that the President must comply and ensure maintenance with the laws of Congress. At the same time, The President has the power to sign laws or veto, represent the United States in negotiations and sign treaties, pardon for federal crimes other than impeachment, and issue decrees that do not contradict laws (“The Executive Branch,” n.d.). In addition, the President is obliged to give information and recommendations to Congress on the state of affairs, and traditionally he fulfills this duty by speaking before Congress in January of each year (“The Executive Branch,” n.d). Thus, the President is the head of the executive branch.

The executive branch is also represented by the Vice President and federal agencies. The main task of the Vice President is to replace the President in the event of his illness or death. In addition, the Vice President has a vote in the Senate but uses it only in the event of a tie (“The Executive Branch,” n.d.). Federal agencies and the Office assist the President and are also responsible for the day-to-day implementation of federal laws.

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The Executive Office of the President (EOP) consists of various offices and advisers that assist the President in making decisions. For example, The Press Secretary provides daily briefings and gives information to the public, and the National Security Council provides advice on foreign policy and intelligence (“The Executive Branch,” n.d.). The Cabinet, which consists of 15 departments, also acts as advisers and closest confidants of the President; however, these departments also develop and implement policies in various areas. For example, such departments are the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice, and the Ministry of Commerce. Other federal agencies outside the Cabinet, such as the Department of Defense and the Environmental Protection Agency, also formulate and implement policies in their area. In this way, The President, as the head of the executive branch, and the various departments enforce federal laws.

The Judicial Branch of Power

The judicial branch of power in the United States is represented by courts of various levels, in which members are appointed by the President and approved by the Senate. Article III of the Constitution leaves a significant part of the power to Congress over the federal courts to determine the form and structure (The Judicial Branch,” n.d.). Judges serve without a fixed limit, and they can leave their post by the decision of the Senate for impeachment, resign, or retire. The jurisdiction of the courts is also determined by the Senate, except in cases of several states’ disputes in which the Supreme Court has original jurisdiction. At the same time, the federal courts have the power to interpret the law, while the lower courts must make decisions based on the federal court’s interpretation.

The Supreme Court is the highest court required by the Constitution that defines its powers. The Supreme Court’s decisions cannot be appealed and are valid. However, an appeal can be filed against decisions of federal and lower courts if citizens do not agree with it (The Judicial Branch,” n.d.). In addition, the courts are divided into criminal, civil, and appeal courts according to the nature of the cases that need to be considered. The Supreme Court can also demand a repeal of laws if it determines them as unconstitutional (The Judicial Branch,” n.d.). Thus, the judicial branch of power serves to interpret laws, protect citizens’ rights and the state, and, in some cases, eliminate contradictions with the law of the Constitution.

Check and Balance System

The three branches’ authorities create a system in which power is evenly distributed, and each branch can influence and oppose the other. This approach makes it almost impossible to usurp power and ensures that fair decisions are made. For example, the President can veto bills that have passed Congressional hearings; however, Congress can cancel the veto with a two-thirds majority of votes in each chamber. The President also submits a draft budget allocation, appoints Cabinet members and Supreme Justices, signs international agreements, and represents the state. However, Congress must confirm candidacies, ratify treaties, and pass a budget, so these government branches are partially interdependent.

The judicial branch interprets laws and can define them as unconstitutional, which prevents Congress from passing such bills. At the same time, Congress can remove judges by impeachment or change their jurisdiction if the court abuses power. In addition, since the President nominates Supreme Justices and has the right to pardon, he can cancel a court decision if it is unfair. Thus, each of the branches of government can influence others, which does not allow them to make decisions that are harmful to the state.

However, the disadvantage of the check and balance system is that it complicates the decision-making process. For example, to pass a law, a bill must be considered by a subcommittee, committee, House of Representatives, and Senate, and then signed by the Presidents. At the same time, amendments require additional considerations and time, as well as a session to vote and cancel veto. Such lengthy procedures interfere with making important decisions or passing laws and can also create confrontation between government branches.


Therefore, studying the US government structure demonstrates that it is built on a check and balance system, which ensures an equal distribution of power. Congress has the power to adopt laws, approve heads of departments and judges; however, the President has the initiative to appoint candidates, the right of veto, as well as the duty to represent the state. Congress determines some of the features of the work of courts and can remove judges; however, the Supreme Court can declare some of Congress’s decisions and laws unconstitutional. This system also creates difficulties in the work of government due to complex procedures and processes of agreement. Nevertheless, as long as representatives of all branches of government services for the good of the state, this system is effective.

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The Executive Branch. (n.d.).

The Judicial Branch. (n.d.).

The Legislative Branch. (n.d.).

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