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  • Government/Civics (18% of the test)

  • Assesses the philosophical foundations of the United States government and how the structure and functions of government developed (local, state, and national) and the relationship between the federal government, the states and individual citizens.

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The Declaration of Independence

  • Based on social contract theories of British Political Philosopher--John Locke (1632-1704)

  • A government’s power comes from the consent of the people. (a social contract)

    -Jefferson declared that people the right to abolish an oppressive government and establish a new one.

  • All people are born free and equal, with natural rights to life, liberty, and property.

    -Jefferson changed the last of these to pursuit of happiness.

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Foundational Principles of the Constitution

  • Rule of law (Written law restricts the government’s power)

  • Federalism (balance of local, state, and national government)

  • Popular sovereignty (the government serves the people)

  • Separation of powers (prevents the

    concentration and abuse of power)

  • Checks and balances (Allows

    branches of government to

    restrain each others powers)

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Ratification of the Constitution

Debate centered on the need for a strong central government versus state rights and individual rights

James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay argued for a stronger central government in The Federalist Papers—they were concerned that regional factions might split up the country.

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The Legislative Branch

  • Article I of the Constitution describes the powers, roles, and responsibilities of the legislative branch

  • Law-making powers of Congress (Senate and House of Representatives)

  • Law-making process (how a bill becomes a law)

  • Other responsibilities of government: budget, federal appointments, etc.

  • Describe the system of checks and balances by citing the checks and balances involved in the passing of a bill (e.g., presidential review and judicial review).

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Legislative Branch-Congress

Membership of the House of Representatives

1. Each state represented proportional to their


2. 435 total members

3. Representatives elected

every 2 years

Membership of the Senate

1. Each State elects two representatives

2. 100 total members

3. Senators elected for 6 year terms

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Congressional Committees

  • Two basic types of Committees

    1. authorizing (establish policies)

    2. appropriations (funding)

  • Standing Committees (permanent)

    -19 in House, 17 in Senate

    - further divided into subcommittees (175 total)

  • Select Committees (special issues or investigations)

  • Joint Committees and Conference Committees

    -House and Senate Committees working together

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Speaker of the House

House Majority Leader

House Majority Whip

House Minority Leader

House Minority Whip


President= Vice-President (votes only as tie-breaker)

President pro tempore

Senate Majority Leader

Senate Minority Leader

Congressional Leadership

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Powers of Congress

  • expressed powers (Written in Constitution)

    examples: Making Laws, FUNDING, Regulating Trade, Declaring War, Impeachment

  • Article I Section 8—known as the Elastic Clause

    -gives congress power to pass laws “necessary and proper” for doing its job.

  • Thus, Congress has Implied Powers.

    (not expressly written in the Constitution)

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Passes bills into law

Over-ride Presidential veto by 2/3 vote

Approval of Cabinet positions (Senate)

“power of the Purse”

Checks on Powers

President’s power to veto laws passed by Congress

Supreme Court’s power to rule laws unconstitutional

Checks and BalancesLegislative Branch

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The Executive Branch

  • Article II gives power of Enforcement and Implementation of federal law to the Executive Branch which is led by the President of the United States who is the Chief executive and chief agenda setter

  • Military power is under the President

    -he is the commander in chief of the armed forces

  • Diplomatic powers –negotiates agreements with other nations in the forms of treaties or executive agreements

    - he is representative of the nation, chief of state, and foreign policy leader

  • The President is the party leader—the head of his/her political party

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Approves or vetoes laws

Carries out laws

Appoints federal judges and officials

Negotiates treaties

Checks on Powers

Congress can override veto by 2/3 vote

Congress has power to approve spending

Senate has power to approve appointments

Senate approves treaties

Congress can impeach

Checks and Balances Executive Branch

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Impeachment Process

  • Any person in the executive or judicial branch—including the President--can be removed from office by the legislature using the Impeachment Process—a two step process

  • The 1st step involves impeachment—or indictment (charges passed in the House of Representatives by a simple majority)

  • The 2nd step involves a trial in the Senate—which requires a two thirds majority to remove a person from office

  • Example: President Clinton was

  • impeached by the House but not

  • convicted in the Senate trial.

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The Cabinet

  • Secretary of State – State Department (Relations with Foreign Countries)

  • Attorney General – Justice Department

    (Chief Prosecutor for the Government)

  • Secretary of Defense – In charge of all armed forces including: Army, Navy,

    Air force, Marines, National Guard

  • (New Department) Homeland Security

    -combines several agencies such as FBI, CIA, and Immigration and Naturalization

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Presidential Election Process

  • Candidate announces candidacy

  • Presidential primaries in each state to determine delegates to party convention

  • Party conventions elect President and Vice-Presidential nominees

  • General Election Campaign between major party candidates

  • General Election –each state’s popular vote is converted to a winner take all electoral vote

  • Electoral College votes based on electoral vote totals

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The Judicial Branch

  • Article III establishes the Supreme Court --Main role is Interpretation of the law

    -Judicial Review (Interpreting the Constitution)

  • Federal court system (three levels)

    Supreme Court (1- 9 Justices)

    Circuit Court of Appeals (13 Circuits)

    US District Courts (94 - 1 to 4 in each state)

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Interprets the meaning of Constitution and laws

Rules on constitutionality of laws passed by congress and actions of the Executive Branch

Checks on Powers

Congress and States have the power to amend the Constitution

Senate has authority to refuse appointments to the federal courts

Congress can impeach a federal judge

Checks and BalancesJudicial Branch

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Powers of the

State Governments

Powers of the Federal Government

Powers Shared by

Federal and


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Responsibilities of Citizenship

  • participation in the community

  • respect for the property and views of others

  • paying taxes

  • obeying the law

  • voting

  • serving on a jury

  • registering for military


  • keeping informed on

    current issues

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Citizens Rights - The Bill of Rights

1. Freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, petition

2. Right to bear arms

3. No quartering of troups without permission

4. No search and seizure without a warrant

5. Rights of the accused to remain silent

6. Right to a speedy trial

7. Right to a jury trial in civil cases

8. Rights to reasonable bail, fines and punishments

9. Powers reserved to the people

10. Powers reserved to the states

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Other Key Amendments

  • 14th-Equal protection under the law for all persons born in the United States

  • 15th-Gave African American males voting rights

  • 17th –Direct election of Senators

  • 19th –Gave women voting rights

  • 24th –Abolished the poll tax

  • 26th –Extended voting rights to 18 year olds

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Political Parties

  • Democratic Party (established in 1828)

    -promote strong central government that support the rights of the poor and minorities

    - more taxes for wealthy

  • Republican Party (established in 1854)

    - support smaller central government with more state and local control

    - less taxes for wealthy and businesses