Checks and Balances in the Constitution

Checks and Balances in the Constitution

( – When the framers of the Constitution wrote the document, they created a government with three branches: the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the executive branch. Still, there was a concern that one of those branches might become too powerful. They’d seen what that could do to a country.

To prevent that problem, the framers created a system to keep it from happening.

Checks and Balances

The framer’s checks and balances system distributes the power of the federal government across the three branches. They laid out the separation of powers in the Constitution, so there would be no confusion about which branch held each power.

James Madison discussed the need for checks and balances in the Federalist Papers. He said the most significant difficulties in creating the government were that they had first to ensure it would be able to “control the governed,” but then “oblige it to control itself.”

Separation of Powers

Americans see the system of checks and balances at work every time the government tries to pass a law. Congress writes bills and passes the legislation. It goes to the president to decide if he agrees with their bill, would like to see changes or he may veto it. This distributed process ensures neither the legislative branch nor the executive branch has too much power. But what about the judicial branch?

When Congress or states pass a law, or the president issues an executive order, the judicial branch can overturn them if it deems the action is unconstitutional. The judicial branch can check the power of the other two branches.

Other examples of the separation of powers are when the executive branch crafts an annual budget proposal. The president can’t allocate new funding; only Congress holds the power of the purse. Congress is broken up into two chambers that check each other, as well.

The framers were brilliant men that anticipated many of the problems that could have destroyed the great American experiment long ago. At a time when the country is so divided and so partisan, those checks and balances are more important than ever.

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