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Checks and Balances in the Constitution

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 4, 2012

Checks and Balances

The Constitution was specifically designed so that no one branch of the government could establish tyranny over either of the other two branches. Each branch has checks on the power of the others.

Executive branch. The president can veto congressional legislation. The president has the power to nominate Supreme Court justices.

Legislative branch. Congress can override a presidential veto with a two- thirds vote of both houses, and can impeach a president, vice president, or Supreme Court justice for committing “high crimes or misdemeanors. Congress can also refuse to appoint a Supreme Court justice nominated by the president.

Judicial branch. The Supreme Court can overturn congressional legislation that it deems unconstitutional. The chief justice presides over the impeachment of a president. Justices serve for life, under good behavior, and are therefore not subject to outside pressure to keep their seats on the bench.

The citizens. The people have the power of their votes; they can refuse to reelect any president, senator, or representative whom they do not support. Additionally, a free press (guaranteed in 1791 in the First Amendment) is a popular check on the power of all three branches; it reports and comments on their proceedings, keeping the people informed and always reminding elected leaders, candidates for office, and prominent citizens that their actions will be made public.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at:

The Constitution and the Bill of Rights Practice Test

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