Learn About the 3 Branches of Government
A summary of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the U.S. government.
* Legislative Branch
The legislative Branch enacts legislation, confirms or rejects Presidential appointments, and has the authority to declare war.
This branch includes Congress (the Senate and House of Representatives) and several agencies that provide support services to Congress.
Senate – There are two elected Senators per state, totaling 100 Senators. A Senate term is six years and there is no limit to the number of terms an individual can serve.
House of Representatives – There are 435 elected Representatives, which are divided among the 50 states in proportion to their total population. A Representative serves a two-year term, and there is no limit to the number of terms an individual can serve.
* Executive Branch
The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the President, Vice President, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.
President – The President leads the country. He/she is the head of state, leader of the federal government, and Commander in Chief of the United States Armed Forces. The President serves a four-year term and can be elected no more than two times.
Vice President – The Vice President supports the President. If the President is unable to serve, the Vice President becomes President. The Vice President can be elected and serve an unlimited number of four-year terms as Vice President, even under a different president.
The Cabinet – Cabinet members serve as advisors to the President. They include the Vice President and the heads of executive departments. Cabinet members are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes).
* Judicial Branch
The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution. It's comprised of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.
Supreme Court – The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The Justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate.
The court is comprised of nine members — a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. A minimum or quorum of six justices is required to decide a case.
If there is an even number of Justices and a case results in a tie, the lower court's decision stands.
There is no fixed term for Justices. They serve until their death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances.
Federal Courts – The Constitution grants Congress the authority to establish other federal courts.