United States Congress and Government Essay

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The student will demonstrate understanding of the structure and functions of government and politics in the United States.

Historical Documents

Magna Carta (1215) First document that limited the government!

Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776) Helped to establish democratic ideals in America.

Articles of Confederation The first government of the United States. Why did it fail as a government? States had the most power. The federal government was weak…there was NO PRESIDENT (or executive branch), NO JUDICIAL BRANCH. National government could not tax, and Congress had to ask for troops.

U.S. Constitution Constitution is a written set of rules by which a government will operate. The U.S. Constitution established three branches of government and divided powers between the Federal (National) Government and the State Governments.

Principles of Democracy and the Constitution (You need to Know EXAMPLES!)

Limited Government: Principles that restricts the power of the government and guarantees individual rights and freedoms to the people.

Checks and Balances: A system where each branch (Executive, Legislative, Judicial) exercises some control over the other branch. Examples include, the veto, judicial review, overriding a veto, congress approving presidential appointments and treaties, Impeachment

Separation of Powers: Division of powers among the branches. Congress makes the laws, the President enforces the laws and the Supreme Court interprets the laws.

Rule of Law: All people, including those who govern, are bound by the same set of laws.

Popular Sovereignty: The idea that government power comes from the people.

Consent of the Governed: When citizens exercise their rights to approve government action (usually by voting)

Majority Rule: Decisions are made by the greatest number of people

Protection of Minority Rights: Decisions made by the majority must not infringe on minority rights.

Individual Rights and Freedoms: Most rights people are born with, and the government’s job is to protect those rights.

Equality under the Law All persons and groups are treated the same. No unfair distinctions are made between groups.

Federalism: Principle that states powers are shared between the state and Central (Federal) government

Powers exclusively federal: Make war, coin money, foreign trade

Powers primarily state & local: Education, maintaining roads, local police

Powers shared by both state and federal government: Power to tax, power to create and enforce laws

Constitution establishes 3 branches of government

The Legislative Branch

• Article I establishes the US Congress • Description- a bicameral (two houses)

• What does the Legislative Branch Do? Legislative Branch MAKES the laws.

• Members of Congress (from the House of Representatives and Senate) are elected by popular vote by member of their districts and states.

• The people they represent are called constituents.

• Members of congress meet in committees to work on bills and keep in touch with voters back home to make sure citizens’ voices are being heard.

• What impacts a member of congress to vote a particular way? ▪ Influences included their constituents (they want to be re-elected), the other members of their party, the President, their own personal views, interest groups.

• What are interest groups? ▪ Groups (National Rifle Association, PETA, etc.) that act in their own best interest to get members of congress and other politicians to support their causes.

• Who is a lobbyist? ▪ A person hired to represents an interest group. He/she informs members of congress about certain issues with hopes of getting legislation passed that