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Checks and balances

The three main branches of powers are carefully balanced. Each branch serves as a check on the others to keep any branch from gaining too much power or from misusing its powers.

Congress has the power to make laws, but the President may veto any act of Congress. Congress can override a veto by a two-thirds vote in each house. The President may suggest legislation, but Congress can refuse to provide funds requested by the President. Only Congress can ratify treaties and declare war. The President can appoint important officials of his administration, but they must be approved by the Senate. The President also has the power to name all federal judges; but they must be approved by the Senate. The courts have the power to determine the constitutionality of all acts of Congress and of Presidential actions, and to strike down those they find unconstitutional. The system of checks and balances makes compromise and consensus necessary. For example, that new Presidents cannot radically change governmental policies just as they wish.



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CONGRESS CAN make laws






  1. Read the text on checks and balances in Britain. Then fill in the scheme below in the same way as in exercise 5. Use the Vocabulary Section if you need it.

System of government in britain

Britain is a parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarch as head of State. The British constitution, unlike those of most other countries, is not a single document, but a combination of laws and conventions. In law the Queen is head of the executive, an integral part of the legislature and head of the judiciary. However nowadays the Queen acts on the advice of her ministers. Prime Minister, who suggests legislation, is an actual head of the executive power. Parliament, Britain's legislature, comprises the House of Commons, the House of Lords and the Queen in her constitutional role. The centre of parliamentary power is the House of Commons. Limitations on the power of the Lords about its power to delay passage of laws for a year are based on the principle that the Lords, as a revising chamber, should complement the Commons and not rival it. When legislation passes through both Houses, it receives the Royal Assent and it then becomes law. Parliament also controls the executive power through parliamentary committees, which question ministers and civil servants before preparing reports on public policy. The House of Commons can force the Government to resign by passing a resolution of ‘no confidence’. The Government must also resign if the House rejects a proposal that is very important to the Government’s policy. The Lord Chief Justice, sitting in the House of Lords, appoints judges on behalf of the Monarch, and is head of the judicial branch. The highest court of

appeal within the UK used to be the House of Lords. In practice, only the Law Lords hear cases. After 2008, the highest court of appeal is a new Supreme Court of the United Kingdom.


  1. Compare and contrast the systems of government in the USA and Britain. In which ways are they similar and in which different? Don’t give separate descriptions of each system. You may use the clues in the boxes below. There is a possible beginning of your essay below the boxes (See: Opinion Essays in the Recommendations on Creative Writing Work).

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