American Government: Institutions and Policies: American Government Flashcards

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created 4 weeks ago by lizzie_casner
Chapters 13, 14, 15, & 16
updated 4 weeks ago by lizzie_casner
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College: First year
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Article I:

The Congress;

•The enumerated powers of Congress are set out in Article I, Section 8

•The "Necessary and Proper" Clause (the Elastic Clause) is the greatest source of power


Article II:

The Executive Branch // The Presidency


Article III:

The Judiciary Branch // The Judges


Typical member of Congress

Wealthier, Older, male, and better educated than the average American


The Great Compromise:

Resulted in a Bicameral Legislature

  • The House: Members dependent on state population; no more than 435
  • The Senate: 2 representatives/state


The House:

  • Serve two years
    • The entire House is elected every two years
  • Members but be over 25 years old and have been a citizen for at least seven years
  • Representation is set by statute at 435 members
  • Each member represents a Congressional District that's been drawn within the state represented; re-apportionment and redistricting



  • Distribution of House Membership changes with the distribution of population in the United States
  • Reapportionment happens every census; every 10 years
  • Each member of the House represent the same number of people; 696,000 people at present



  • If a state loses or gains representation as a result of reapportionment; district lines within the state must be redrawn
  • Each member represents roughly 696,000 people
  • Redistricting can occur at any time but generally every ten years following a census


The Speaker of the House:

  • The only office of the House specifically mentioned in the Constitution
  • The most powerful member of the House
  • The Presidential Succession Act places the Speaker of the House succeed to the presidency


The House Rules Committee:

  • Considers every piece of legislation before it goes to the floor of the House
  • Attached to each piece of legislation a "special rule" controlling the procedure to be followed on the floor
  • Debate is limited in the House because of this "rules" process


Party Whips:

  • House political leaders who are responsible for enforcing party discipline and lining up votes on legislation


The Senate:

  • Members serve for six years
  • 1/3 of the Senate is elected every two years
  • The Constitution designates the Vice President of the United States as President of the Senate; The Succession Clause
  • In the absence of the Vice President (who is usually absent), the President Pro Tempore of the Senate presides
  • A person designated by the Pro Temp. usually presides
  • Senate Majority Leader: The most powerful member of the Senate


Approval of Treaties:

The Constitution gives the Senate the power to approve treaties — a 2/3 vote is required for the approval to go through


Debate in the Senate:



The Committee System:

  • Standing Committees
  • Conference Committees
  • Joint Committees
  • Select Committees


Standing Committees:

  • Receive proposed bills
  • Continue from one Congress to the next
  • Have a particular matter jurisdiction


Joint Committees:

  • Members from both chambers
  • Investigations, major public issues (continuing issues)


Conference Committees:

  • Members from both chambers
  • Reconciliation of legislation


Select Committees:

  • Appointed for special purposes


Legislative Process:

  • The Constitution requires all revenue bills to originate in the House
  • Logrolling: "You vote for me, and I'll vote for you."
  • Earmarks: Funding provided for a particular purpose within a state or a congressional district


Theories of Representation:

Delegate: Do what your constituents want you to do

Trustee: Exercise your independent judgment

Politico: Combination of Trustee and Delegate theories


Congressional Review:

The power of Congress to invalidate a federal regulation or administrative rule by legislation


Presidential Qualifications:

  • 35 years old
  • A resident for 14 years
  • A natural-born citizen


Presidential Terms of Office:

  • Originally, no limitation on the number of terms
  • 22nd Amendment: Sets a two-term limit or a total number of 10 years possible


Presidential Succenssion:

  • The Presidential Act of Succession of 1947: Provides succession to the presidency in the event of a vacancy and no vice president — This legislation has never been used.
  • 25th Amendment: Provides for appointing a vice-president in the event of a vacancy in that office


Powers of the Presidency:

  • The Appointment Power
  • The Power to Convene Congress
  • The Power to Make Treaties
  • Veto Power
  • Power to Act as Commander-in-Chief
  • The Power to Pardon


The Appointment PowerL

  • The President makes 3,000 appointments
    • Cabinet officials, executive branch officials, federal judges, and Supreme Court Justices


The Power to Convene Congress:

  • Rarely used because Congress now meets all through the year


The Power to Make Treaties:

  • Must be approved by a 2/3 vote of the Senate
  • The Treaty of Versailles, Ending World War I — was not approved by the Senate of the United States because of the League of Nations
  • Executive Agreement: Used to avoid Senate approval. These agreements can do anything a treaty can do but are limited to the President's tenure in office


Veto Power:

  • The President has the power to veto legislation
  • These vetoes can be overridden by Congress but overrides rarely occur
  • Both Houses of Congress must override by a 2/3 vote
  • The president does not have the power of line-item veto — in vetoing a bill, the entire bill must be vetoed. (The President does not have the power to delete or veto part of a bill.)
  • Pocket Veto: the president can hold a bill for ten days, and if Congress adjourns, the bill is automatically vetoed (Congress cannot override this veto type)


Power to Act as Commander-in-Chief:

  • The President is the highest-ranking military officer in the United States
  • The President has the power to deploy American troops without declaring war.
  • The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: gave the President a great deal of authority to fight the war in Vietnam
  • War Powers Resolution: the effort of Congress to reign in the president's power and make him more accountable to Congress before using American Troops
    • this act requires the president to notify Congress before deploying troops if possible and gives Congress 60 days to approve or disapprove of deployment if it has occurred
    • All Presidents have taken the position that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional


The Power to Pardon:

  • Restoration of all rights and privileges of citizenship to someone charged or convicted of a federal crime
    • Ford pardoned Nixon after Watergate
    • Carter pardoned Vietnam draft dodgers


Roles of the President:

  • Chief of State: The President represents the United States in its relationships with other countries
  • Party Leader: Chief Law Enforcer, Shaper of Public Policy


The Executive Office of the President:

Established in 1939 by FDR

  • The Vice Presidency
  • Office of Management and Budget (OMB)


The Vice Presidency:

  • The only constitutional duty of the vice president is to be the president of the Senate
  • The president decides what the vice president will do and how much power they will have
  • Dick Cheney: The most powerful vice president in the history of the United States


Removal From Office:

Impeachment: The President can be impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

  • The House must approve Articles of Impeachment by a majority vote, and the Senate must convict on any article with a 2/3 vote.


Office of Management and Budget:

  • Proposes the annual budget, is responsible for managing the budget of the Executive Branch, supplies economic forecasts, and analyses proposed legislation for economic effect.


The Executive Branch and the Federal Bureaucracy:

Various agencies within the government often have higher approval ratings than the government itself.


Growth of the Bureaucracy:

Many of the government agencies we have created in response to the Great Depression


The Pendleton Act:

  • Provided that civil servants would be selected based on qualifications
  • Was an attempt to do away with patronage and favoritism
    • Patronage brought about by President Jackson
  • Applies to all civil service jobs, no matter the level of employment


The Hatch Act:

  • Passed in 1939
  • Prohibited civil service personnel from taking active political roles
  • Political contributions were forbidden – working for a particular party or campaigning for a particular candidate


Interstate Commerce Commission: (ICC)

Created to regulate rates charged by railroads for shipping freight

  • the first independent regulatory commission
  • wasn't a part of any cabinet department


The Sixteenth Amendment:

  • Allowed an individual income tax
  • provided the federal government with a tremendous funding source and allowed the creation of much of the federal bureaucracy


The U.S. Postal Srvice:

Has more employees than any other federal agency or branch of government.


The Cabinet:

  • NOT mentioned in the Constitution
  • 15: the current number of cabinet positions
  • All cabinet departments are headed by a Secretary except The Department of Justice


Government Corporations:

  • Created to fulfill a function that can be provided by a private corporation
  • Amtrack
  • Tennessee Valley Authority


Independent Executive Agencies:

  • Resemble Cabinet Departments but have much narrower responsibilities
    • Central Intelligence Agency
    • Environmental Protection Agency


Powers of Bureaucracy:

  • Administrative Discretion: The ability of officials to exercise their judgment concerning the best way to implement congressional intentions
  • Rule Making: An administrative process that has the characteristics of a legislature
  • Implementation: The process by which a law or policy is put into operation


Oversight by Congress:

  • Police Patrol: Congress acts proactively and can set its own policies and agenda
  • Fire Alarm: Congress is reacting to a problem or a complaint.
    • This is the type of oversight Congress uses most often

*The most effective communication occurs between congressional staffers and agency personnel.


The JUdicary:

Alexander Hamilton did not believe the courts would play a significant role in the new government.


Congressional Checks on the Courts:

  • Can alter the Court's jurisdiction
  • Can raise but not lower a judge's salary
  • Pass laws that change the effects of a statutory interpretation
  • Can amend the Constitution
  • Ability to impeach a federal judge
  • Power of appropriations
  • Have the power of confirmation


Judicial Review:

  • The power of the Court to review actions taken by the other branches of government to determine their constitutionality — includes state governments as well
    • Marbury v. Madison: the case in which the Court held it had the power of judicial review


John Marshall:

  • The most important justice to ever serve on the Supreme Court
  • Called the "Great Chief Justice."
  • The Marshall Court helped establish:
    • The supremacy of the federal government over state governments
    • The right of the Court to exercise judicial review
    • Writing a single opinion for the Court by all justices
    • The power of the Court to interpret state laws
  • Marshal was the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court for 34 years –during his time, he increased the power and stature of the Court/ (in many ways, made the Court what it is today)



  • The power to hear and decide a case
  • Is established by a constitution or a statute
  • Original Jurisdiction: The power to hear and decide a case based upon a trial or hearing
  • Appellate Jurisdiction: Review of proceedings in a lower court for legal or procedural mistakes — these courts do not hear evidence or testimony


State Courts of Original Jurisdiction:

State Trial Courts

  • These court cases are by the millions each year – these courts hear more cases than the federal district courts
  • Nearly all criminal cases are heard in State Courts


Federal Courts of Original Jurisdiction:

Federal District Courts

  • These courts hear cases involving federal laws, the U.S. Constitution, or civil suits in which the parties are from different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 – diversity cases


Life Tenure:

  • Granted to federal judges during good behavior
  • The intention was to make judges free from political influence


The Judiciary Act of 1789:

This act created the system of federal courts


Size of the Courts:

  • The Constitution does not set the number of justices on the Supreme Court
  • Congress sets the number by legislation
  • The Judiciary Act of 1789 set the number at six justices originally
  • Today, there are nine members of the Court; a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices


Legislative Courts:

  • Established by Congress according to Article I for special purposes
  • These courts have limited, specific jurisdiction. EX: the U.S. Tax Court
  • Judges on the courts serve for a specified term


Federal District Courts:

  • Every state has one Federal District Court
  • Some states have four. (New York, Texas, and California)


John Roberts:

The present Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court


Circuit Courts of Appeal:

  • Level of Federal Courts below Supreme Courts
  • 11 are geographical(First through the Eleventh Circuit), the D.C. Circuit, and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals
    • The D.C. Circuit: The second most powerful federal court.
      • Hears all cases involving federal agencies
      • Considered a "training ground" for future Supreme Court prospects



A prior decision that serves as a rule for settling a subsequent case of similar nature.

  • All federal courts must follow the decisions of the United States Supreme Court involving federal statutes and the United States Constitution
  • A U.S. Supreme Court opinion binds all the circuit and federal trial courts
  • A decision of one of the circuit courts binds only those courts within that particular circuit.


Senatorial Courtesy:

The President gave deference to the preferences of home-state senators of the president's party when nominating a district court judge


Recess Appointments:

  • The president's ability to appoint a judge to the office during a congressional recess
    • The appointment will be effective, without confirmation, until the end of that congress


Constitutional Qualifications:

No qualifications for Supreme Court members are listed in the Constitution.



*To Date: 2 African Americans and four women have sat on the Supreme Court

  • Members are appointed by the president and approved by the Senate
  • Presidents always try to appoint someone they believe agrees with them on political and policy issues — Presidents are often wrong


Review by the Supreme Court:

  • Review is discretionary
  • Rule of Four: Four members of the court must vote to hear a case
  • Cases the Court is most likely to hear:
    • When the govt. is seeking review
    • When there is a conflict between circuits
    • It implicates a civil right or liberty
    • It involves a policy of ideological questions of interest to the court


Writ or Certiorari:

An order granting review in a case and ordering the lower court to send the record up for review

  • The number of cases filed with the Court has increased exponentially
  • The number of cases the Court has taken to hear has decreased dramatically


The Solicitor General of the United States:

  • Argues all government cases in the Supreme Court
  • Considered to be the "ninth and a half" court member


Amicus Brief:

  • Submitted by an interested party in a case
  • The brief is for the benefit of the court and does not necessarily reflect the view of the parties to the case
  • Often submitted by special interest groups


Judicial Activism:

Judges should use their power broadly to further justice and protect those with little political power.

  • Republicans and Democrats support judicial activism when it results in decisions they agree with.
    • When one party favors Judicial Activism, the other party is complaining
  • Activism is not Confined to one party or the other


Judicial Restraint:

Judges should refrain from making policy and allow congress or the legislature to consider and enact legislation if deemed appropriate.


The Big Four:

  1. Secretary of State
  2. Secretary of the Treasury
  3. Secretary of Defense
  4. Attorney General


The Articles:

  • Article I: Congressional powers and limitations
  • Article II: Executive powers and limitations
    • sections 3: the cabinet
  • Article III: Judicial Branch
    • section 1: power and involvement with state courts
    • section 2: original and appellate jurisdiction; exceptions and regulations clause (can remove state jurisdiction)
    • section 3: definition of treason; needs 2 witnesses to convict
  • Article IV: Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State
  • Article V: Amendments to the Constitution may be ratified by the Legislatures of three-fourths of the several States or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress
  • Article VI: Supreme Law
    • All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into before the Adoption of this Constitution shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution as under the Confederation