A federal system of government is a two-tiered system. It means that a nation's smaller local state governments are connected and guided by a central national government's rules.
In a federal system of government, some areas of public life are governed by local governments, while others are ruled by the central national government. Federal systems of government work well for larger countries that need a central government to help maintain peace and unite diverse groups of people with a wide variety of needs, according to Study.com. Local governments handle issues that are of individual importance.
Division of Power in the U.S.
In the United States, the federal government provides the leadership on activities such as tax collection, national defense, borrowing money, regulating commerce, creating currencies and declaring war. The Constitution gives all other powers to the states.
To make sure the federal government is balanced in its decisions that affect citizens, it is divided into three branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial. Congress, under the Judicial branch, is further divided into two houses: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The three branches are meant to provide a built-in system of checks and balances that ensures no single branch asserts too much power. The powers dictated to both the federal government and the states are defined by the United States Constitution.
The Executive Branch
The Executive branch of the U.S. makes sure laws are carried out and enforced by the current administration, executive departments, independent agencies and all other supporting boards, along with commissions and committees, according to USA.gov. Citizens have a right to vote for the members of the executive branch, including the President and Vice President. However, Cabinet members of the Executive branch are nominated by the President and must be approved by the Senate of the Legislative branch.
The Legislative Branch
The Legislative Branch, headed by Congress, includes the Senate and the House of Representatives that all support the work of Congress. The main tasks of this branch are further divided between the Senate and the House.
Members of the Senate include senators, of which there are two for each state, according to Whitehouse.gov. Six-year terms are staggered, which means senators are up for reelection at different times. The Senate has the power to confirm the President's appointments and to ratify treaties, but members may also try impeachment cases for federal officials.
Members of the House of Representatives are elected every two years, and they have the key powers to create revenue bills and oversee impeachment of federal officials, according to Whitehouse.gov.
For legislation to pass and receive the President's signature, both the House and the Senate must agree to pass the bill with a majority vote, but that process is complex in that it must be reviewed by several committees and subcommittees to study the pros and cons of each bill.
The Judicial Branch
The Judicial branch of the U.S. federal government, headed by the Supreme Court, includes the federal courts and the organizations that support them. This branch holds courts responsible to decide the meaning of laws, how they are applied and if they violate the Constitution. This is how Federal courts check and balance the Legislative and Executive branches.
Interpreting the Constitution
The Constitution is subject to interpretation because of a clause about citizens having the right to do what is "necessary and proper," regarding the extent of the federal government's influence over local governments. This is a common topic of political debate.