Essay: The Separation of Powers in USA

The concept of separation of powers is an important aspect of the Constitution of the United States of America. Throughout history, this concept has been the subject of discourse among contemporaries such as Aristotle, who favored a mixed government consisting of a monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, James Harrington, who won the minds of the American public and shaped their political discourse, John Locke, who separated powers into Legislative and Executive, and Montesquieu who expanded on Locke’s 1690 “Civil Government” in 1748 by adding the judiciary branch (Mahler). In consideration of these great minds and authorities, as well as the means for just ruling of the public, the Constitution was created with an aim to provide people with a balanced government system. Today, this is executed with the checks and balances systems that has made the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches of the US government interdependent on and accountable for one another (Kurland and Lerner, ch. 10).

The checks and balance system is a purposefully inefficient means by which to limit the power of each of the three branches of the United States government. In other words, the inclusion of checks and balances is what provides shared power to the governed and the government, limiting, for example, uncomfortable tyrannical situations. As it has been established within the Constitution, the Legislative branch is responsible for making laws, the Executive branch is responsible for executing them, and the Judicial branch interprets these laws. Nevertheless, the Executive branch is allowed to appoint judges and grant pardons while the Chief Justice plays the important role of President of the Senate during presidential impeachment. At the same time, it is the Legislative branch that has power to impeach a president yet the Executive branch that has the power to veto any bill created by the Legislative branch (Kurland and Lerner, ch. 11).

The process of transforming a bill into a law involves many actors, starting from concerned citizens, group, organization or legislator, and ending at the president (barring a veto). In the first stage of this process, both houses of Congress are required to produce a majority vote for the introduction of the bill (Baker, and Morse 26-27). The steps in between largely involve Committees and Subcommittees, which are groups derived from the House and the Senate, and which specialize on specific topics under which a bill may be categorized. These Committees determine by vote if the bill should be passed on to partake in House Procedure. Here the whole House, or the Committee of the Whole is allowed to debate, amend, and vote on the bill, but not kill it entirely, before it put through Senate Procedure. Once the bill is finished at the Senate, the bill is checked and sent along to the president. After the bill has been read, debated on, and possibly amended, the president has the choice of signing, sitting on, or vetoing the bill. If the president vetoes the bill, Congress must revisit and pass the bill again by a two-thirds majority vote, which immunizes the bill to future vetoes. If the president sits on the bill for more than ten days, the bill passes automatically. Barring any difficulties, the bill then becomes a law and is published in the United States Statutes at Large and if applicable, added to the U.S. Code. A slip law, published by the Archivist of the U.S. also accompanies each law. A slip law is a historical standalone document that describes the law’s legislative history, committees through which it passed, and other vital information (Mount).

Works Cited
Baker, Melinda, and Sara Morse. "How a bill becomes a law." Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons 93.12 (2008): 26-27. Web. 28 May 2011.
Kurland, Philip, and Ralph Lerner. "Chapter 10: Separation of Powers." The Founders Constitution. The University of Chicago Press, 2000. Web. 28 May 2011. <>.
Kurland, Philip, and Ralph Lerner. "Chapter 11: Balanced Government, Introduction." The Founders Constitution. The University of Chicago Press, 2000. Web. 28 May 2011. <>.
Mahler, Gregory. Comparative Politics: An Institutional and Cross-National Approach. 4th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Education, 2002. Print.
Mount, Steve. "Constitutional Topic: How a bill becomes a law." 30 Nov 2001. Web. 28 May 2011. <>.

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