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Separation of Powers

2. What is the “Separation of Powers”?

The Constitution divides the US Government into the following three separate-but-equal branches.

•   Legislative Branch (Article I) – House of Representatives and Senate (collectively, “Congress”)

•    Executive Branch (Article II) – President

•    Judicial Branch (Article III)  – US Supreme Court

    •    Discussion: How many bills last year did Congress present to the President to sign into law? How many times did the President exercise his veto authority? Can you provide an example of a federal law that was overturned by the US Supreme Court? An executive action overturned by the US Supreme Court? Can you think of an example of a law that was narrowly or broadly interpreted to either limit or expand the breadth of the law?

•    Practice Question: Congress passes a bill in the House and Senate and sends it to the office of the President for signature. What happens if the President does not want to sign the bill into law? By what method can the bill still become law? What if the President signs the bill into law but refuses to enforce the law in accordance with its terms? Is there any method or remedy for challenging the President’s failure to enforce the law in accordance with its provisions? What happens if the President signs the bill into law, but the law seems to burden or infringe upon the Constitutional rights of a group of US citizens? What methods and authority exist for challenging the validity of the law?

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