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Legislative Getting Started

FEDERAL

A BRIEF OVERVIEW

Executive Branch

President

The powers of the President consist of both constitutionally declared powers and those deriving from his influence and prestige. The President is elected for four-year terms.

Within the executive branch itself, the president has broad powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government. The president can issue rules, regulations, and instructions called executive orders, which have the binding force of law upon federal agencies but do not require congressional approval. As Commander in Chief of the armed forces of the United States, the president may also call into federal service the state units of the National Guard. In times of war or national emergency, the U.S. Congress may grant the president even broader powers to manage the national economy and protect the security of the United States. These actions have been taken by Presidents from Washington to today but are not powers granted by the Constitution to the President. In fact, Congress is the body constitutionally given the power to call forth the National Guard.

The President nominates and the Senate confirms all the heads of the executive department and agencies.

The President is also responsible for preparing the budget, although the Congress must approve it.

Election of President of the United States and Vice President of the United States is indirect. Although ballots list the names of the presidential candidates, voters within the 50 states and the District of Columbia are actually choosing Electors from their state when they vote for President and Vice President. These Presidential Electors in turn cast the official (electoral) votes for those two offices

Cabinet

The tradition of the Cabinet dates back to the beginnings of the Presidency itself. One of the principal purposes of the Cabinet (drawn from Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution) is to advise the President on any subject he may require relating to the duties of their respective offices.
The Cabinet includes the Vice President and the heads of 15 executive departments-the Secretaries of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs, and the Attorney General. Under President George W. Bush, Cabinet-level rank also has been accorded to the Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency; Director, Office of Management and Budget; the Director, National Drug Control Policy; and the U.S. Trade Representative.

President’s Website http://www.whitehouse.gov/president/

United States Electoral College

The United States Electoral College is the official name of the group of Presidential Electors who are chosen every four years to cast the electoral vote and thereby elect the President and Vice President of the United States.

Each state has as many Electors as it has Representatives and Senators.  Presidential Electors are nominated by their state political parties in the summer before the Popular Vote on Election Day. Each state provides its own means for the nomination of Electors. The Presidential Electors meet in their respective state capitals in December, 41 days following the election, at which time they cast their electoral votes.

There is much debate as to whether to abolish the Electoral College in favor of direct election by popular vote.

To learn more about the Electoral College Click Here

Legislative Branch Congress

Article I of the U.S. Constitution states that Congress will consist of two separate houses. A lawmaking body with two houses is called a bicameral legislature. The two houses that make up the U.S. Congress are the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress is the primary lawmaking body in the U.S. government. Each member of Congress is elected by the people of his or her state. The House of Representatives, with membership based on state populations, has 435 seats, while the Senate, with two members from each state, has 100 seats. Members of the House of Representatives are elected for two-year terms, and Senators are elected for six-year terms.

Florida has 25 Congressional seats. This means there are 25 Congressmen, 23 from the House of Representatives and 2 Senators that represent Florida. They each have their own geographical area or district in Florida. The citizens within that geographical area are called his constituents.  Constituents of each district elect the representative for that district, can lobby that representative, and ultimately vote that representative out of office if they are not represented in the manner that they want.

The congressional elections are important because of the central role the Congress plays in making policy. Unlike a parliamentary system, the American system is one of separate powers between Congress and the President. All laws are written in and must be passed by the Congress. Also as opposed to parliamentary systems, party discipline is often less strictly observed. Members of Congress are free to vote on policies as they think best, including what they think best for winning their own reelection. As a result, congressional leaders must put together a winning coalition one member at a time, rather than count on unified support from highly disciplined parties, thus making every congressional victory or defeat important for both parties. By having separate and independent elections for every office means that it is possible for one party to control the Congress while a member of the other party is President. This so-called divided government has become very common. Different parties have controlled the House and the presidency for 16 of the last 24 years.
Please click the following links to find more information about Congress.

http://www.congress.org/congressorg/home/
http://www.house.gov/
http://www.senate.gov/

Judicial Branch

The judicial branch hears cases that challenge or require interpretation of the legislation passed by Congress and signed by the President. It consists of the Supreme Court and the lower federal courts. Appointees to the federal bench serve for life or until they voluntarily resign or retire.
The Supreme Court is the most visible of all the federal courts. The number of Justices is determined by Congress rather than the Constitution, and since 1869, the Court has been composed of one Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Justices are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

United States Supreme Court
Federal Judicial Center
United States Federal Courts
United States Code
United States Tax Court
Public Access to Court Electronic Records
(PACER)

The United States Court of Appeals
First Circuit
Third Circuit
Fourth Circuit
Fifth Circuit
Sixth Circuit
Seventh Circuit
Eighth Circuit
Ninth Circuit
Tenth Circuit
Eleventh Circuit
D. C. Circuit
Federal Circuit