The Constitution of USA

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What is the constitution?
The Supreme law of the USA. It is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of United States citizens.
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When did delegates from 12 of the 13 states convene in Philadelphia to begin work on redesigning government?
May 1787
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What was their aim?
To create a government with enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that fundamental rights would be at risk.
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How was the power of government split?
Into 3 branches, checks and balances were established to assure that no-one branch of government gained supremacy.
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Who would the House of Representatives represent?
The people as apportioned by population.
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Who would the senate represent?
The states apportioned equally.
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How would the president be elected?
By the Electoral College.
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What is the legislature?
Congress. It is bicameral consisting of the House of Representatives and Senate.
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What power does the president hold?
Executive power and is therefore responsible for implementation.
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What is the Supreme Court head of?
The federal judiciary responsible for interpreting and applying law.
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How are the three branches situated?
They are independent but also interdependent.
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How many members are there in the House of Representatives?
435.
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How often are members of the House of Representatives elected?
Every 2 years.
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How many senators are there?
100
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How long do senators serve for?
6 years, with one third elected every 2 years.
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How long does a President serve?
A term of four years and can serve a maximum of two terms.
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How long do Supreme Court Justices serve?
For life.
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What checks does the executive have ON the legislature?
Power to recommend legislation & power to veto bills.
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What checks does the executive have ON the judiciary?
Power to nominate judges; power to pardon; power to appoint judges.
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What checks does the legislature have ON the executive?
Override presidential veto; amend, block & reject items of legislation; ratify treaties; confirm presidential appointments; power to declare war; power of the purse; impeachment.
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What checks does the legislature have ON the judiciary?
Confirm appointment to Supreme Court; overturn decisions; change number of Supreme Court Justices.
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What checks does the Judiciary have ON the legislature?
Power to declare acts of congress unconstitutional; Chief Justice presides over senate hearing to impeach president.
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What checks does the Judiciary have ON the executive?
Power to declare actions of any member of the executive branch unconstitutional.
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Who can amendments be proposed by?
Congress (2/3 majority in both houses required) & National Constitutional Convention (never used) (called by at least 2/3 of the states)
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Who can amendments be ratified by?
State legislatures (3/4 of the state legislatures must vote to ratify) & state constitutional conventions (3/4 of the states must hold conventions & vote to ratify)
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How can the Supreme Court change the constitution?
It can be interpreted differently at different times in different circumstances. e.g. 14th amendment - Plessy v Ferguson 1869 and Brown v Board of Education 1954.
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What is a result of Supreme Court interpretation?
The growth of presidential powers and shift of authority from state to federal government
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Examples of the constitution changing through developing conventions
The president's use of Cabinet and EXOP; the power of congressional committees; Supreme Court's power of judicial review.
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What has the elastic clause allowed?
The constitution to evolve.
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What is Bipartisanship?
Close cooperation between the two major parties.
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Why is bipartisanship thought to be crucial to political success?
It is possible to have a president of one party and congress controlled by another.
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Example of bipartisanship
2007-2008 Republican President (GWB) & Democrat House & Senate.
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What is gridlock?
Describes the situation in which the US executive is at loggerheads with one or both chambers of legislature.
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An example of gridlock
In 1995, the Democrat President Bill Clinton's budget was blocked by the Republican-controlled congress.
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What is divided government?
When the presidency and one or both of the chambers of congress are controlled by opposing parties.
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An example of divided government
2006 mid-terms meant GWB had to face both houses and senate controlled by Democrats.
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If the president's party has a majority in Congress there is no guarantee he will get his way... Example...
Obama struggled to get healthcare reforms.
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Why wouldn't this happen in the UK?
Because the PM comes from the legislature.
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Arguments that divided government leads to effective government:
Bills scrutinised closely; treaties checked closely; nominees questioned more rigorously in the confirmation process
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Arguments that divided government does not lead to effective government:
Impeachment; presidential appointments rejected for political reasons.
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Strengths of divided government:
Legislation has to be acceptable to all parties to be passed; gives party not in control a role.
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Weaknesses of divided government:
Gridlock & partisan bickering; parties becoming polarised - not bipartisan; party loyalty become weaker.
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Examples of proposed amendments that failed:
A balanced budget amendment would never pass in congress; an equal rights amendment - failed to get required states' vote; making abortion, same-sex marriage or flagburning unconstitutional.
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Successful amendments:
Civil rights amendments following civil war (13th,14th,15th); direct election for the senate (17th, 1913); amendment to extend voting rights: to women (19th,1921) & to 18 (22nd, 1971); two term presidency (22nd, 1951)
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What were the founding fathers scared of?
The constitution being changed on a whim.
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Criticisms of Amendment II (right to bear arms)
Assasinations of President John Kennedy (1963); Senator Robert Kennedy & Martain Luther King (1968); Incidents in schools & unis - Columbine High school, Colorado (1999) & Virginia Tech (2007); American Society has moved on & constitution needs to to
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What did the Supreme Court rule in District of Columbia v Heller?
That a law banning handguns in Washington DC to be unconstitutional
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Example of Congress using power of purse
In 2007, the Democrat controlled congress attempted to limit President George. W. Bush's spending on military operations in Iraq.
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What is federalism?
Powers reserved to the states; their reserved powers enable the states to counter the authority of the central government and are a part of checks & balances; the reserved powers are more explicit in 10th amendment
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What are the powers reserved to the states?
to regulate interstate commerce; to conduct elections; to incorporate businesses; to issue licences for interstate activities; to set up local governments; to provide for public safety & morals (police power)
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Who was to be the umpire of all disagreements between the federal and state governments?
The Supreme Court.
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What is Dual Federalism?
State governments exercised most political power. Role of Federal government was limited mainly to matters of money, war and peace. AKA layer-cake federalism. Active 1780-1920s
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What is Cooperative Federalism?
Federal & State gov cooperated to solve the problems facing US society - poverty, health, education, transport & national security. Active 1930s to 1960s. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy & Johnson. Role of federal gov increased.
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New Federal executive departments introduced under Cooperative federalism
defence (1949); Health, education & welfare (1953); Housing & Urban development (1965); and transportation (1966)
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What is New Federalism?
Active in 20th century. Block grants - money given to states by federal government to be used at the discretion within broad policy areas. Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush. Movement towards decentralisation. Shift back to state power
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What is federalism under George W. Bush?
Big government. Federal government spending grew by 33% (2001-05). Federal budget as a share of the economy grew from 18.4% in 2008. Creation of Department of Homeland security.
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Card 2

Front

When did delegates from 12 of the 13 states convene in Philadelphia to begin work on redesigning government?

Back

May 1787

Card 3

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What was their aim?

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Preview of the front of card 3

Card 4

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How was the power of government split?

Back

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Card 5

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Who would the House of Representatives represent?

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