The legislative, executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government have distinct powers and responsibilities, but must also work with each other to ensure a system of "checks and balances." The writers of the Constitution set up this system to make sure that one person or branch would not have too much power and that citizens' rights would be protected.
The legislative branch of government is made up of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, known collectively as Congress. These legislative bodies make laws, declare war, enact spending and taxation policies, and regulate interstate and foreign commerce. Congress also has the power to impeach a president.
The executive branch of government includes the executive office of the President, the Vice-President, his advisers and the President's cabinet. Cabinet members serve as heads of government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of Energy. This branch of the government enforces the laws made by Congress and the president may also veto laws passed by Congress. In turn, Congress can override the President's veto
The judicial branch consists of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Federal Judicial Center. The Supreme Court consists of a chief justice and a number of associate justices fixed by Congress. Currently, the number of associate justices is fixed at eight. The President has the power to nominate justices, and the Senate decides whether or not to confirm a justice. The court reviews laws that have been passed by Congress and makes arguments and decisions about various court cases that challenge legislation or require interpretation of laws. The Federal Judicial Center acts as the research and education agency for the court. The center was created in 1967 to promote improvements in judicial administration.