Government Test Review Branches of Government

Executive Branch

Powers of the President

  • Commander in Chief
  • Grant pardons for federal offenses (not including impeachment)
  • Convene Congress in special sessions
  • Receive ambassadors and recognize foreign nations
  • Wield executive power
  • Appoint officials to lesser offices

PoWers the President shareS with congress

  • Approve legislation
  • Make treaties (Senate)
  • Appoint ambassadors, judges, and high officials (Senate must approve)

Executive OFfice of the PRESIDENT

Includes the Vice President, the secretaries of 15 executive departments, cabinet-rank officials who are able to attend cabinet meetings, the Chief of Staff.

Chief of staff

  • Head of the White House staff
  • Is known as the "gatekeeper" since they control who is able to see the president.
  • Oversees the administration of the EOP

Executive Orders

A rule or regulation issued by the president that has the effect of law. These executive orders can do the following:

  • Enforce legislative statutes Enforce the Constitution or treaties with foreign nations
  • Enforce the Constitution or treaties with foreign nations
  • Establish or modify rules and practices of executive administrative agencies
the war powers act of 1973
  • Gives President the ability to send out troops as long as they notify Congress within 48 hours of doing so.
  • The troops remain there for 60 days before Congress decides to declare war.


A bureaucracy can be defined as a complex organization of non-elected officials which serve as an administrative policymaking group. This includes the EOP and cabinet positions. Civil servants belong to the Bureaucracy and are essentially those who work for the government. Civil servants are subject to the merit system which is the system of promoting and hiring government employees based on skill and performance.

RESPONSIBILITIEs of the Federal Bureaucracy

The Federal Bureaucracy is responsible for enacting the policies set forth by Congress and the President.

Discretionary Authority

  • Appointed officials have broad decision-making power, also called discretionary authority.
  • They can decide their agencies’ courses of action.
  • They can make policy directives within the scope of the law.
  • They can choose what to purchase, where to allocate funds, and who to purchase from within federal guidelines.

The Hatch Act

The Hatch Act of 1939 was passed to prohibit federal employees from engaging in party politics. Its goal was to make the civil service system neutral, efficient, and free of political corruption. It prohibited federal employees from:

  • Using their positions to influence or interfere with elections
  • Taking an active part in political campaigns
  • Promising monetary or other rewards in exchange for political support
  • Using public funds for partisan political purposes

Bureaucratic Pathologies (what's wrong with the Bureaucracy)

Red Tape- The processes which the Bureaucracy is required to undertake In order to complete an action are often tedious and time-consuming. This causes its work to slow down tremendously, reducing its effectiveness and increasing its cost.

Conflict- The interests of the countless agencies of the Bureaucracy can sometimes be in conflict, especially if they hold different views about the same task.

Duplication- Some government agencies are tasked with the same goal which can cause redundancy and inefficiency.

Waste- When tasks are handled too slowly or ineffectively, more money is spent than needed.

Imperialism- Agencies often have vague congressional mandates and will tend to extend their power in every possible direction.

Legislative Branch

Enumerated Powers

Congress has certain powers enumerated in the Constitution.

  • The power to collect tax
  • to borrow money
  • to regulate commerce
  • establish rules for naturalization and bankruptcy
  • coin money
  • establish post offices
  • create lower courts
  • declare war
  • raise and support an army and navy
  • exercise exclusive legislative powers
  • "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the fore-going powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution" (the necessary and proper clause)


There are three kinds of committees:

  • Standing committees- permanently established legislative committees that are responsible for legislation in a certain subject area
  • Select committees- congressional committees appointed for a limited time and purpose
  • Joint committees- a committee where both senators and representatives serve (such as a conference committee which exists to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of the same bill)

How a bill becomes a law

  1. Any member of Congress introduces a bill
  2. The bill is assigned to a standing committee
  3. The standing committee reports the bill to the floor of either the House or the Senate depending on where it originated
  4. The bill is placed on the congressional calendar meaning its debate is scheduled
  5. The bill is debated on the floor
  6. A vote is held, and if it passes it is sent to the other chamber (House or Senate depending)
  7. The conference committee resolves differences in the two versions
  8. The bill is then sent to be signed by the President
  9. If the President signs it, it becomes a law. If he vetos it, the bill dies. Congress can override the veto if 2/3's of both chambers vote but it is rare


The filibuster is a procedure whereby a senator or senators speak on any topic for as long as they wish. This is meant to delay voting and prevent other legislation from being discussed. If 60 senators invoke a cloture, the debating ends and the bill is brought to an immediate vote, but this is very rare.

Party Whips

The Republican and Democratic parties each elect a whip to unify their party members on important legislation.

Power of the Purse

  • The constitutional power of Congress to raise and spend money
  • Congress uses this as a check over the other branches by cutting their funding
  • Gerrymandering is the drawing of legislative district boundaries to benefit a party, group, or incumbent.
  • Reapportionment is the process of redistricting the number of seats in a jurisdiction's legislative body to the districts of that jurisdiction based on the results of the latest census
  • Redistricting is the process of redrawing the districts within a jurisdiction to reflect the result of the reapportionment process.

Judicial Branch


  • State courts have jurisdiction over state laws
  • Federal courts have jurisdiction over federal laws
  • The Supreme Court has the ultimate authority over both

Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction (the case can originate in the Supreme Court) if it is a civil case between states or between states and the federal government.
  • Original jurisdiction also includes suits and proceedings brought against ambassadors and other diplomatic personnel.
  • The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction (the case is appealed to the Supreme Court) over decisions of lower federal courts, state court decisions that rule any U.S. statute or treaty invalid, and any state law being challenged as unconstitutional.

Court of Appeals

Writ of Certiorari

  • translates to "to be made certain"
  • this is an order by an appellate court to review the decision of a lower court
  • the Supreme Court is able to accept or deny a writ
  • the five criteria of a writ are (1) the decision conflicts with precedent, (2) the court has a new question, (3) two courts have made conflicting decisions, (4) courts in different states disagree, and (5) there was a split decision in the appellate court

Statutory Law and Common Law

  • Statutory laws are written laws
  • Common laws are unwritten, but based on precedent
  • (Civil Law is a dispute between two parties such as in a divorce, breach of contract, or malpractice case)

Solicitor General

  • represents the United States in all litigation before the Supreme Court
  • decides the cases which the U.S. will appeal to the Supreme Court as well as the U.S.'s position on these cases

Amicus Curiae

  • translates to "friend of the court"
  • is a third party which contributes additional information relevant to a case (all parties must agree to the brief)
  • Amicus curiae briefs are intended to help the Court better understand the details of a case

Stare Decisis

  • translates to "let the decision stand"
  • The higher court usually will not overturn precedents, and will uphold the previous decision

Court Decisions

  • The Supreme Courts decision is ultimately carried out, although it is not always enforced or may be implemented slowly.
  • The writer of the opinion is chosen by either the chief justice (if they are in the majority) or the most senior majority judge.
  • The dissenting opinion is the opinion of the minority of justices and is written to make known both sides of the argument.

Judicial Activism and Restraint

  • The restraint approach maintains that judges should decide cases solely based on the language of the Constitution and laws
  • The activist approach believes that judges should discern the general principles underlying laws or the Constitution and apply them to the circumstance at hand
  • Judicial activism occurred when judges began to argue that they do not merely find the law, they make the law
Created By
Brianna Riguera


Created with images by kevingessner - "Capitol"

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