US Government

Confederal System

(Confederacy) A union of independent sovereign states, joined together by a central government that has limited powers over them

Major Principles of the Constitution

Popular Sovereignty, Federalism, Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, Judicial Review, Limited Government

Popular Sovereignty

People are the source of government power


Power is divided between national and state governments

Separation of Powers

Each of the three branches of government has its own responsibilities

Checks and Balances

Each branch of government holds some control over the other two branches

Judicial Review

Courts have power to declare laws, and actions of Congress and the president, unconstitutional

Limited Government

The Constitution limits the powers of government by making explicit grants of authority

The Legislative Branch (Congress)

Expressed powers/Enumerated powers

Expressed/Enumerated powers

1. Levying taxes
2. Borrowing money
3. Regulating commerce
4. Coining money
5. Punishing counterfeiting
1. Declaring war
2. Raising and supporting armed forces
3. Organizing the militia
Elastic clause:
The Congress can make all laws "ne

The Executive Branch (President)

1. Commander in chief of the armed forces and the state militias (National Guard)
2. Appointing heads of executive departments (with Senate's consent)
3. Pardoning people convicted of federal crimes, except in cases of impeachment, or reduce a person's se

The Judicial Branch (Supreme Court)

Federal jurisdiction is determined by: the subject matter of the case and who is involved in it

Sunset Law

Sets an automatic end date for the law

Sunshine Law

Prohibit public officials from holding closed meetings


Organization of government administrators to carry out legislation

Bicameral legislature

Made up of two houses - the Senate and the House of Representative


Drawing district boundaries to give one party an electoral advantage

Standing Committees

Deal with issues of permanent legislative concern

Conference Committees

For a bill to become law both houses must approve identical versions. When different versions are past the leaders create a conference committee to reconcile the differences between the two bills

Select Committees

Deals with temporary issues, investigation

Joint Committees

Consist of members of both houses usually created to deal with a specific issue


Specializes in a subcategory of its standing committee's responsibility

Spoil system

Awarding government jobs

27th Amendment

The amendment prohibits a sitting Congress from giving itself a pay raise

Privileges of Members of Congress

Free from arrest "in all cases except treason, felony, and breach of the peace,"when they are attending Congress or on their way to or from Congress.
Cannot be sued for anything they say on the House or Senate floor

Exclusion power

Each house may judge members' qualifications and decide whether to seat them, refuse to seat an elected member by a majority vote, and "punish its own members for disorderly behavior" by a majority vote and expel a legislator by a two-thirds vote


A vote of formal disapproval of a member's actions.


Those members already in office won reelection


The people in the districts they represent

House Leadership

(1) organizing and unifying party members
(2) scheduling the work of the House
(3) making certain that lawmakers are present for key floor votes
(4) distributing and collecting information
(5) keeping the House in touch with the president
(6) influencing

The Speaker of the House

The presiding officer of the House and its most powerful leader


A closed meeting of the majority party chooses the House Speaker at the start of each session of Congress, and the entire House membership approves the choice of Speaker

Majority leader

Speaker's top assistance
Help plan the party's legislative program
Steer important bills through the House
Make sure the chairpersons of the many committees finish work on bills important to the party.
Is the floor leader of his/her political party in the


Assistant floor leaders in the House


A proposed law


List bills that are up for consideration.

Union Calendar

Lists bills dealing with money issues

House Calendar

Public bills

Private Calendar

Lists bills that deal with individual people or places

Consent Calendar

List bills that the House gives unanimous consent to debate out of regular order

Discharge Calendar

Used for petitions to discharge a bill from committee

The Rules Committee

The "traffic officer" in the House, helping to direct the flow of major legislation
One of the oldest House committees, and the most powerful
Has the power to decide how and when legislation will be considered by the House


The minimum number of members who must be present to permit a legislative body to take official action

President pro tempore

Presides the Senate in the absence of Vice President
The Senate elects this leader

The Calendar of General Orders

Lists all the bills the Senate will consider

The Executive Calendar

Schedules treaties and nominations


An effort to prevent action in a legislature (such as the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives) by making a long speech or series of speeches


A procedure that allows each senator to speak only 1 hour on a bill under debate

Seniority System

Gave the member of majority party with the longest uninterrupted service on a particular committee the leadership of that comittee

Personal Staff

Work directly for individual senators and representatives

Committee Staff

Work for House and Senate committees

Administrative Assistant

Runs lawmaker's office, supervises lawmaker's schedule, gives advice on political matters

Legislative Assistant

Makes certain that the lawmaker is well-informed about bills with which he or she must deal

Congressional Budget Office

Coordinates the budget making work of Congress, study the budget proposals put forward by the President each year, and make cost projections of proposed new programs


Personal staff members who handle the many requests for help from people in a lawmaker's state or congressional district

Revenue bills

Laws for raising money

Appropriations bills

Proposed laws to authorize spending money


A formal accusation of misconduct in office


A legal order that a person appear or produce requested documents


Lying under oath


Willful obstruction


Freedom from prosecution for witnesses whose testimony ties them to illegal acts


The president's refusal to spend money Congress has voted to fund a program

Line-item veto

Veto only certain lines or items in a bill

Private bills

deal with individual people or places

Public bills

deal with general matters and apply to the entire nation

Simple resolution

covers matters affecting only one house of Congress and is passed by that house alone

Joint resolution

When both houses pass a joint resolution the president's signature gives it the force of law

Concurrent resolutions

cover matters requiring the action of the House and Senate, but on which a law is not needed


a provision on a subject other than the one covered in the bill


kill the bill by a majority vote


The committee listens to testimony from witnesses who may include experts on the subject of the bill, government officials, or representatives of interest groups concerned with the bill

Pocket veto.

The president kills a bill passed during the last 10 days Congress is in session by refusing to act on it

Ways and Means Committee

decides whether to go along with presidential requests for tax cuts or increases

Closed rule

Forbids members to offer any amendments to a bill from the floor


Approval of government spending

Authorization bill

sets up a federal program and specifies how much money may be appropriated for that program


social programs that continue from one year to the next


representatives of interest groups


efforts to persuade officials to support lobbyists point of view


Helping constituents with problems

pork-barrel legislation

Congress passes laws to appropriate money for such local federal projects


Agreements by two or more lawmakers to support each other's bills


15 secretaries, the vice president, and several other top officials

Central clearance

The OMB reviews all legislative proposals executive agencies prepare

National security adviser

A special assistant for national security affairs directs the National Security Council (NSC) staff


Strong popular support

Executive order

Rules that have the force of law


Grants a postponement of legal punishment


Releases from legal punishment


A group-pardon to people for an offense against the government


Appointment to political office rewarding those persons who support the president and the party during an election


Offices of ambassadors in foreign countries who analyzes data about American interests in other countries, and speaks for the United States in the United Nations

Department of State

is responsible for the overall foreign policy of the United States and protects the rights ofUnited States citizens traveling in foreign countries

Department of the Treasury

Manages the monetary resources of the United States

Department of the Interior

Protects public lands and natural resources throughout the nation and oversees relations with Native Americans

Department of Agriculture

Helps farmers improve their incomes and expand their markets by developing conservation programs and provides financial credit to farmers, safeguarding the nation's food supply

Department of Justice

Oversees the nation's legal affairs

Department of Commerce

Promotes and protects the industrial and commercial segments of the American economy

Department of Labor

Protects American workers by ensuring safe working conditions, safeguards a minimum wage, and protects pension rights

Department of Defense

Protects the nation's security

Department of Health and Human Services

Directs programs concerned with the health and social services needs of the American, manages the federal Medicare and Medicaid programs and helps senior citizens and less fortunate Americans through the Social Security Administration

Department of Housing and Urban Development

Preserves the nation's communities and ensure Americans of equal housing opportunities

Department of Transportation

Regulates all aspects of American transportation needs, policy development, and planning

Department of Energy

Plans energy policy and researches and develops energy technology

Department of Education

Oversees programs to help students with limited English proficiency as well as programs for physically challenged students

Department of Veterans Affairs

Administers several hospitals as well as educational and other programs designed to benefit veterans and their families

Department of Homeland Security

Controls the Coast Guard, the Border Patrol, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, etc., and analyzes information collected by the FBI and the CIA

General Services Administration

Constructs and maintains all government buildings, supplies equipment for federal offices

Central Intelligence Agency

Gathers information about what is going on in other countries, evaluates it, and passes it on to the president and other foreign-policy decision makers

Government corporations

Businesses the federal government runs


Reduce the powers of regulatory agencies

Pendleton Act

Creates the federal civil service system

Civil service system

The principle and practice of government employment on the basis of open, competitive examinations and merit

Benefits of government jobs

Salaries are competitive with those in private industry.
Get from 13 to 26 days of paid vacation every year, depending on the length of their service.
Have extensive health insurance plans and 13 days of sick leave every year.
May retire at age 55

Hatch Act

Limits how involved federal government employees can become in elections by prohibiting federal employees from engaging in political activities while on duty, including wearing a campaign button. They cannot run for partisan elective offices or solicit co

Social Security Act

Makes it possible for disabled workers to receive payments from the government

Client groups

The individuals and groups who work with the agency and are most affected by its decisions

Liaison officers

Promotes cabinet members good relations with Congress


An order that will stop a particular action or enforce a rule or regulation

Iron triangle

A close relationship between an agency, a congressional committee, and an interest group

Jurisdiction (of the Court)

The authority to hear certain cases

Federal courts are also given the jurisdictional authority to hear cases if certain parties or persons are involved

(l) ambassadors and other representatives of foreign governments
(2) two or more state governments
(3) the United States government or one of its offices or agencies
(4) citizens who are residents of different states
(5) citizens who are residents of the

Concurrent jurisdiction

Both federal and state courts have jurisdiction

Original jurisdiction

The authority to hear cases for the first time

Appellate jurisdiction

Authority of court to review a decision of a lower court or administrative agency.


People engaged in a lawsuit

Due process clause

No state may deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law

Constitutional courts

Federal courts created by Congress under Article III of the Constitution, including the district courts, courts of appeals, and specialized courts such as the U.S. Court of International Trade

Grand jury

A jury of 12 to 23 persons who, in private, hear evidence presented by the government to determine whether persons shall be required to stand trial. If the jury believes there is sufficient evidence that a crime was committed, it issues an indictment.


A formal accusation charging a person with a crime

Petit jury/trial jury

A jury of 6 to 12 persons that determines guilt or innocence in a civil or criminal action.

Judicial circuits

a region containing a united states appellate court

The Court of International Trade

Has jurisdiction over cases involving tariffs

Legislative courts

Courts created by Congress for specialized purposes whose judges do not enjoy the protections of Article III of the Constitution

Senatorial courtesy

Presidential custom of submitting the names of prospective appointees for approval to senators from the states in which the appointees are to work.