The U.S. Constitution defines a federal system of government in which certain powers are delegated to the national government while other powers fall to the states.
The Constitution was ratified in 1788. Part of it is the Bill of Rights, which established a number of individual liberties. It has changed many times in its history. It abolished slavery and declared former slaves as citizens with the right to vote. It has allowed the direct election of U.S. senators, and affected women’s suffrage.
The national government consists of the executive, legislative and judicial branches.
The Executive branch
The executive branch of the government is headed by the president. He must be an American, born in the United States, and at least 35 years old. In addition, he must be a resident of the country for at least 14 years.
The president is a treaty maker, commander in chief of the army, and head of the state. He is also head of the government, initiator of legislation and formulator of foreign policy. The members of the Cabinet are appointed by the president with the approval of the Senate.
The president is elected for four-year terms. The current president’s name is Barack Hussein Obama (a member of the Democratic Party).
The legislative branch of the government is the Congress, which is made up of two houses: the Senate (with 100 members) and the House of Representatives (with 435 members). Each state elects two senators. They must be at least 30 years old, residents of the state from which they are elected, and previously citizens of the United States for at least 9 years. Each term of service is for six years, and terms are so arranged that one-third of the members are re.elected every two years.
The House of Representatives is chosen by direct vote. Members must be 25 years old, residents of the states from which they are elected, and previously citizens of the United States for at least 7 years. They serve for a two-year period. The speaker of the House of Representatives is chosen by the majority party and one of his duties is to preside over debate.
Legislative bills may be introduced in and amended by both houses. A bill must pass both of them and it must be signed by the president before it becomes law. The president may veto a bill, but a veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote of both houses.
The Judicial branch
The judicial branch of the federal government is headed by the U.S. Supreme Court, which interprets the meaning of the Constitution and of federal laws. It consists of nine justices (including the chief justice) appointed by the president with the agreement of the Senate.
There are two major political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party.
The national parties compete in presidential elections every four years.