UNIT 4C Governing the USA

  • The Constitution 
  • Congress
  • Presidency
  • The Supreme Court
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Nature of the constitution:
Built on compromises:
1. The form of government:
From 1781 ruled under confederal, where virtually all powers rests
with the states.
COMPROMISE: Federal government, power rests nationally, but equally
as important powers rest at state level
2. Representation of the states:
Larger states want representation proportional to population
Small states wanted equal representation
2 Houses:
House of representatives, proportional to population
Senate, equal representation (2 per state)
3. Choosing of the president
Some wanted him to be appointed and others directly elected
Indirectly elected by the electoral college
Holds the ability to evolve due to the vagueness of the document
Allows the states to be sovereign in some cases and federal government
to be sovereign in others
"to provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United
Not everything is included in the constitution:
Presidents cabinet
Congressional committees
Executive office of the president
Supreme courts power of judicial review

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Principles of the constitution:
Separation of powers `shared powers'
Cannot be a member of more than one branch (Obama resigned from
senate to be President)
Legislature: Congress, makes the laws
Executive: Headed by the president, carries out laws
Judiciary: Supreme courts, enforces the laws
Aim of this:
Be independent yet co-equal
Separate in terms of personnel
Check and balance on each other
Checks and balances…read more

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Federal division of power
Federalism is not actually in the constitution
Articles 1,2 & 3 lay out the power of the national government
Amendment X, all remaining powers are reserved to the states
Exclusive powers to the national government
Coin money
Negotiate treaties
Tax imports and exports
States rights
Equal representation in senate
Borders cant be changed
Constitution wont be changed without 2/3's vote
Federalism under George W.Bush (Republican)
1. Federal government spending grew, opposite of what would you would
expect from a Republican
2.…read more

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Wall street and the banking collapse of 2008:
September 2008 President Bush authorised using federal money to bail out
two mortgage companies who had suffered huge losses with the collapse of
the US housing market. The two companies involved were the federal National
mortgage association (Fannie May) and the Federal house loan mortgage
cooperation (Freddy Mac). The bail out package for Wall street which followed
on from this amounted to $700 billion of aid to offset the effects of the credit
crunch.…read more

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Bicameral system
House of representatives
435 members, proportional to states
Over 81 women, increase from previous years
47 African Americans
30 Hispanics
20 women
0 African Americans
2 Hispanics
Powers of congress
Exclusive powers:
Consider all money bills
Impeach (accuse) any member of government
Elect president if electoral college is tied (not used since 1824)
Given these powers because they are elected by the people
With 2/3's agreement can ratify all treaties agreed by the president
Confirm appointments…read more

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House counterparts,
· Senators often enjoy much greater name recognition, not only in their
state but often across the nation as a whole.
· House members frequently seek election to the senate; the reverse is
almost unknown. In 2009 there were 48 former House members in the
· Senators are more frequently thought of as likely Presidential
candidates. Recent examples include Senators, Barack Obama, Hilary
Clinton, Chris Dodd and John McCain, all of whom contested their party's
presidential nomination race in 2008.…read more

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Policy specialists
Most have subcommittees (house science & technology-energy &
Party balance in committee is in proportion to chamber
Chairman drawn from chambers majority party (usually though
seniority rule)
Conduct committee stage of legislative process
Conduct investigations within committees policy area
Not specifically granted by the constitution
· In the senate it has a 3rd function
· Begin confirmation process of numerous presidential appointments
· Vote is not decisive, it's a recommendation how it rarely overturned
· John Kerry 2013, Senate Foreign Relations…read more

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Decide when they will meet
· Control budget
· Serve as a spokesmen on policy area to white house and media
The Legislative process
The legislative process in the US congress is best thought of in seven stages.…read more

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· Committees have full power of amendment
· Because of huge numbers of bills being referred to each committee,
many bills are merely put to one side and never considered.
· For a bill that is to be considered, a hearing is held with witnesses
appearing before the committee.…read more

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In both houses, further amendments can usually be made
· Votes will be taken on amendments - simple majorities required to pass
· At the end of the debate, a vote will be taken on the bill
· The vote will either be a voice vote (for non-controversial bills) or a
recorded vote.
· A simple majority is required to pass the bill
5.…read more


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