The system of checks and balances is an important part of the United States Constitution. The three branches of the government representing the separation of powers – executive, legislative, and judicial – each hold specific responsibilities. Checks and balances is a method set in place so that no branch of the government can become to powerful by allowing each branch to limit the powers of the others. This is accomplished by each branch checking the powers of the other branches to ensure the balance between all three. “The rationale of the separation of powers is often elided with the rationale of checks and balances and with the rationale of the dispersal of power generally in a constitutional system” (Waldron).
The legislative branch was established under Article 1 of the Constitution and consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives, collectively known as Congress, and is primarily responsible for making laws. Once a bill enters Congress, it must be passed by both houses in order to go on to the President for consideration. Currently, the House and the Senate are working on negotiations on a veterans bill “to let veterans get health care outside the Department of Veterans Affairs, including looking for ways to cover the cost” (Klimas). There are two bills circulating for approval with nearly the same intent, but due to the broad extent of the Senate bill, “conferees will need to work out the differences between the two bill”(Klimas). Before this issue can advance to the next level, both the House and the Senate must pass the same bill with majority vote.
Once a bill has been passed by the legislative branch, it moves on to the President as the head of the executive branch, established under Article II of the Constitution, for review. The President then either approves or vetoes the bill under his authority. Another power held by the President within the executive branch is the ability to sign executive orders that hold the full force of law, such as the announcement of President Obama who “plans to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against employees on the basis of their sexual orientation”(Associated Press). Even this form of executive power is subject for review under the judiciary branch and can still be struck down.
Established under Article III of the Constitution, the judicial branch is responsible for the oversight of the court system of the United States. Unlike that of the legislative and executive branches of government, the judicial appointees are made by the President and then confirmed by the Senate. Once a law is established, individuals test it through this court system. The Supreme Court heads the judicial branch and is deemed the highest court of the land, with final decisions that no other court can overrule. Cases such as that against a man appealing his murder conviction can become Supreme Court cases. “The highest court in Massachusetts has affirmed the conviction of a Brockton man who was charged with first degree murder after he beat a man to death with a hammer and slashed his neck with a sharp tool. In a decision written by Justice Roderick Ireland, the Supreme Court ruled against Lawrence Bynum-Harris on Wednesday”(Donga). Once a case has been ruled by the Supreme Court, the charge stands and, in general, no other appeals can be made. If the legislative branch disagrees with the judicial interpretation of law, a new piece of legislation can be submitted, and the process begins again.
So, the separation of power between the three branches of government undergoes a systematic process of checking and balancing the actions and decisions of one another to ensure that power is not centralized in any branch individually. “All that the Division of Power Principle cares about is that power be dispersed; it does not care particularly what the dispersed powers are. And all that Checks and Balances cares about is that power checks power or be required to concur in another power’s exercise; again what the powers are that counterpoise each other in this balance is of incidental interest”(Waldron).
Associated Press. (2014, June 16). Obama to sign order extending LGBT protections [Newsgroup post]. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2014/06/16/obama-to-sign-order-extending-lgbt-protections/ Donga, E. (2014, June 18). Supreme Judicial Court decides against convicted murder from Brockton [Newsgroup post]. Retrieved from