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Branches of the United States Government

Legislative Branch

Article I, The Constitution of the United States

The two houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, make up the Legislative Branch. Congress has the power to levy and collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, coin money, declare war, raise and support armies, and make laws. There are 100 senators and 435 representatives. Senators serve six-year terms, and representatives serve two-year terms. Each state is allotted two senators, and the number of representatives is determined by each state's population. For example, Texas has many more representatives than Rhode Island.

Executive Branch

Article II, The Constitution of the United States

The President heads the Executive Branch. He oversees the cabinet, which includes the secretaries of State, Treasury, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Education, Energy, and Veterans' Affairs, and the Attorney General. The President's responsibilities include enforcing and carrying out laws passed by the legislative branch, appointing or removing cabinet members and officials, negotiating treaties, and acting as head of state and commander in chief of the armed forces.

Judicial Branch

Article III, The Constitution of the United States

The Supreme Court heads the Judicial Branch, which interprets the meaning of the Constitution and federal laws, upholds the laws, or invalidates them. There are eight associate justices and one chief justice. The President nominates the justices to the Supreme Court and the Senate approves them.


Executive Branch

Qualifications for President and Vice President

Article II, The Constitution of the United States

President of the United States

Term of Office
Four years; the president may not serve more than two successive terms; term ends in January

Qualifications for President
Natural born citizen; at least 35 years of age; a resident within the United States for 14 years before election

Presidential Functions
The Nation's Chief Executive and Chief of State; enforces federal laws; appoints and can remove high federal officials and U.S. diplomats; commands the armed forces; conducts foreign affairs; may recommend legislation to the Congress; signs legislation passed by both houses of the Congress into law; may veto legislation; may call Congress into special session

Annual salary $400,000

Vice President of the United States

Qualifications for Vice President
No qualifications are set out in the Constitution

Vice Presidential Functions
President of the U.S. Senate; other roles largely determined by the president; succeeds to the presidency if the president becomes unable to serve or dies

Annual salary $181,400


Roles of the United States President

Chief Executive

As Chief Executive, the president helps run the government. As the United States Constitution requires, he/she oversees the operation of the Executive Branch of the government. The President makes sure that laws are enforced, appoints important officials, issues executive orders, reprieves and pardons, and coordinates the efforts of over 150 agencies. Some of these agencies are the Post Office, the Food and Drug Administration, the Internal Revenue Service, Bureau of the Mint, the National Park Services, and the Bureau for Traffic Safety Standards. The President's chief assistants are the members of the Cabinet, each of whom administers a large department of the federal government. The President also makes appointments to the Supreme Court.
Commander in Chief
The president is head of all the military forces. He is responsible for all activities of the defense forces--raising, training, and deploying (sending out or calling up) troops. As Commander in Chief, the president reviews the troops, awards service medals, and meets with military officers and civilian national security advisors.
Chief of State
As Chief of State, the president is involved in much ceremony. Duties involve such things as recognizing citizens for outstanding achievements in various fields (education, science, medicine, space exploration, etc.), entertaining and/or greeting leaders of foreign countries, celebrating/honoring special occasions (laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers to commemorate Veterans Day or laying a wreath at the Lincoln Memorial to remember Lincoln's birthday), promoting worthy causes, and meeting with citizen groups (such as the Girl Scouts).
Chief Diplomat
The president is the leader, initiator, and guide of our foreign policy. In addition to the ceremonial duties with foreign leaders, the president frequently consults with those leaders to maintain relationships with them. As Chief Diplomat, the president appoints ambassadors to other nations, negotiates treaties or agreements with them, and appoints the Ambassador to the United Nations. The president also travels to other countries where the United States' positions and ideas on foreign affairs are voiced.
Chief Legislator
Although not a part of the Legislative Branch of government, the president is also the country's legislative leader. While advising and guiding Congress in its lawmaking activities, the president also recommends laws. When a bill passes both houses of Congress, the president may sign it and it becomes law. Each January the president gives the State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress. In this speech the president evaluates the country's last year of domestic and foreign relations and policies and reports on the fiscal status of the nation. Congress is also informed about what the president believes is important and what should be accomplished during the next year.
Chief of the Party
The president is leader of his/her own political party as long as he/she remains in office. The party helps keep the president informed of the needs of the nation and the people's reactions to government programs. As the leader of the party, the president frequently campaigns for or endorses other candidates running for office.
Voice of the People
When speaking to leaders of other nations, the president speaks for the citizens of the United States; the president also speaks to Congress for the people. When explaining actions taken by the administration, the president will inform the people through press conferences, television and radio broadcasts, newspapers, etc. Sometimes citizens are invited to visit with the president in the Oval Office.


Presidential Powers

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.
Legislative 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 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. 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.
Judicial Powers
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.
Executive Powers
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.

Powers In Foreign Affairs
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. For example, 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 during World War II. 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.


Order of Presidential Succession

Amendment XXV, The Constitution of the United States

NOTE: An official cannot succeed to the Presidency unless that person meets the Constitutional requirements.

  • The Vice President
  • Speaker of the House
  • President pro tempore of the Senate
  • Secretary of State
  • Secretary of the Treasury
  • Secretary of Defense
  • Attorney General
  • Secretary of the Interior
  • Secretary of Agriculture
  • Secretary of Commerce
  • Secretary of Labor
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Secretary of Transportation
  • Secretary of Energy
  • Secretary of Education
  • Secretary of Veterans Affairs


Landmark Laws of the Lyndon B. Johnson Administration

With these acts President Lyndon B. Johnson and the Congress wrote a record of hope and opportunity for America:

  • College Facilities
  • Clean Air
  • Vocational Education

  • Indian Vocational Training
  • Manpower Training

  • -----1964-----
    • Inter-American Development Bank
    • Kennedy Cultural Center
    • Tax Reduction
    • Presidential Transition
    • Federal Airport Aid
    • Farm Program
    • Chamizal Convention
    • Pesticide Controls
    • International Development Association
    • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    • Campobello International Park
    • Urban Mass Transit
    • Water Resources Research
    • Federal Highway
    • Civil Service Pay Raise

  • War on Poverty
  • Criminal Justice
  • Truth-in-Securities
  • Medicine Bow National Forest
  • Ozark Scenic Riverway
  • Administrative Conference
  • Fort Bowie Historic Site
  • Food StampHousing Act
  • Interest Equalization
  • Wilderness Areas
  • Nurse Training
  • Revenues for Recreation
  • Fire Island National Seashore
  • Library Services
  • Federal Employee Health Benefits

  • -----1965-----
    • Medicare
    • Aid to Education
    • Higher Education
    • Four Year Farm Program
    • Department of Housing and Urban Development
    • Housing Act
    • Social Security Increase
    • Voting Rights
    • Fair Immigration Law
    • Older Americans
    • Heart, Cancer, Stroke Program
    • Law Enforcement Assistance
    • National Crime Commission
    • Drug Controls
    • Mental Health Facilities
    • Health Professions
    • Medical Libraries
    • Vocational Rehabilitation
    • Anti-Poverty Program
    • Arts and Humanities Foundation
    • Aid to Appalachia
    • Highway BeautyClean Air
    • Water Pollution Control

  • High Speed Transit
  • Manpower Training
  • Presidential Disability
  • Child Health
  • Regional Development
  • Aid to Small Businesses
  • Weather-Predicting Services
  • Military Pay Increase
  • GI Life Insurance
  • Community Health Services
  • Water Resources Council
  • Water Desalting
  • Assateague National Seashore
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
  • Delaware Water Gap Recreation Area
  • Juvenile Delinquency Control
  • Arms Control
  • Strengthening U.N. Charter
  • International Coffee Agreement
  • Retirement for Public Servants

  • -----1966-----
    • Food for India
    • Child Nutrition
    • Department of Transportation
    • Truth in Packaging
    • Model Cities
    • Rent Supplements
    • Teachers Corps
    • Asian Development Bank
    • Clean Rivers
    • Food for Freedom
    • Child Safety
    • Narcotics Rehabilitation
    • Traffic Safety
    • Highway Safety
    • Mine Safety
    • International Education
    • Bail Reform
    • Tire Safety
    • New GI Bill
    • Minimum Wage Increase
    • Urban Mass Transit

  • Civil Procedure Reform
  • Federal Highway Aid
  • Military Medicare
  • Public Health Reorganization
  • Cape Lookout Seashore
  • Water Research
  • Guadalupe National Park
  • Revolutionary War Bicentennial
  • Fish-Wildlife Preservation
  • Water for Peace
  • Anti-Inflation Program
  • Scientific Knowledge Exchange
  • Cultural Materials Exchange
  • Foreign Investors Tax
  • Parcel Post Reform
  • Civil Service Pay Raise
  • Stockpile Sales
  • Participation Certificates
  • Protection for Savings
  • Flexible Interest Rates
  • Freedom of Information

  • -----1967-----
    • Education Professions
    • Education Act
    • Air Pollution Control
    • Partnership for Health
    • Social Security Increases
    • Age Discrimination
    • Wholesome Meat
    • Flammable Fabrics
    • Urban Research
    • Public Broadcasting
    • Outer Space Treaty
    • Modern D.C. Government
    • Vietnam Veterans Benefits
    • Federal Judicial Center
    • Civilian-Postal Workers Pay

  • Deaf-Blind Center
  • College Work Study
  • Summer Youth Programs
  • Food Stamps
  • Rail Strike Settlement
  • Selective Service
  • Urban Fellowships
  • Consular Treaty
  • Safety At Sea Treaty
  • Narcotics Treaty
  • Anti-Racketeering
  • Product Safety Commission
  • Small Business Aid
  • Inter-American Bank

  • -----1968-----
    • Fair Housing
    • Indian Bill of Rights
    • Safe Streets
    • Wholesome Poultry
    • Food for Peace
    • Commodity Exchange Rules
    • U.S. Grain Standards
    • School Breakfasts
    • Bank Protection
    • Defense Production
    • Corporate Takeovers
    • Export Program
    • Gold Cover Removal
    • Truth-in-Lending
    • Aircraft Noise Abatement
    • Auto Insurance Study
    • New Narcotics Bureau
    • Gas Pipeline Safety
    • Fire Safety
    • Sea Grant Colleges
    • D.C. School Board
    • Tax Surcharge
    • Better Housing
    • International Monetary Reform
    • International Grains Treaty
    • Oil Revenues for Recreation
    • Virgin Islands Elections
    • San Rafael Wilderness

  • San Gabriel Wilderness
  • Fair Federal Juries
  • Candidate Protection
  • Juvenile Delinquency Prevention
  • Guaranteed Student Loans
  • D.C. Visitors Center
  • FHA-VA Interest Rate Program
  • Health Manpower
  • Eisenhower College
  • Gun Controls
  • Aid-to-Handicapped Children
  • Redwoods Park
  • Flaming Gorge Recreation Area
  • Biscayne ParkHeart, Cancer, and Stroke Programs
  • Hazardous Radiation Protection
  • Colorado River Reclamation
  • Scenic RiversScenic Trails
  • National Water Commission
  • Federal Magistrates
  • Vocational Education
  • Veterans Pension Increases
  • North Cascades Park
  • International Coffee Agreement
  • Intergovernmental Manpower
  • Dangerous Drugs Control
  • Military Justice Code


    Highlights of Legislation Passed During President Johnson's Administration

    President Johnson's administration produced the greatest outpouring of legislation in America's history. Laws were enacted to end discrimination and to fight poverty, to provide medical care to the old and to extend educational opportunities to the young. In addition, acts were passed to clean the air and water and reverse the pollution of decades, to preserve precious land for public recreation and to protect the natural beauty of the continent. Legislation protected the consumer in the marketplace and enabled art, music and theater to be brought to every corner of the nation.
    Civil Rights
    Three major laws are the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Open Housing Act of 1968. These acts bring down the barriers that restricted black Americans from using restaurants, restrooms, theaters, and other public accommodations, end discrimination in where they choose to live, and assure all citizens their constitutional right to vote.
    The federal government becomes an active partner in improving education and expanding its opportunities. Sixty separate bills, providing for new and better-equipped classrooms, minority scholarships, low-interest student loans, and a host of other innovations, open the doors of grade school through college to millions.
    The Environment
    "The earth is in our care." This is the message brought home to Americans as the Great Society introduces measures to reclaim our heritage of clean air and water. Some 3,650 square miles of mountains, forest, and shoreline are preserved for the people's enjoyment, increasing by fifteen percent the nation's total parklands.
    Head Start
    Four- and five-year-old children from disadvantaged families attend special classes where they get nourishing meals and medical attention, and a chance to start school on an even basis with other youngsters.
    Job Corps
    A more promising future is opened for young men and women who learn to farm, to weld, to build houses, and other skills that will enable them to lead useful, productive lives.
    Health care is guaranteed to every American sixty-five and over. With the passage of this act, the threat of financial doom is lifted from senior citizens, and also from the sons and daughters who might otherwise have been burdened with the responsibility for their parents' care.
    National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities
    Artists, performers, and writers are a priceless part of our heritage and deserving of our support: that is the philosophy undergirding the creation of these programs, which infuse new resources into the country's cultural institutions and bring the joys of music, art, and theater to every part of the nation.
    War on Poverty
    A massive undertaking to eliminate poverty involves more than forty separate programs, all intended not just to improve living conditions but to enable people trapped in the cycle of poverty to lift themselves out of it.