The answer to who makes federal law is not as simple as you might think. The Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws, but there are other entities that play a role in the process.
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In the United States, the Constitution creates a federal system of government, which means that there is a central government with certain limited powers, as well as state and local governments with a broader range of authority. The distribution of power between the different levels of government is known as federalism.
Federal law is created by the United States Congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress has the power to pass laws that apply to the entire country. These laws are known as statutes.
The President of the United States is also involved in the law-making process. The President has the power to veto legislation that has been passed by Congress. If the President vetoes a bill, it cannot become law unless two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to override the veto.
The judicial branch of government plays an important role in federal law-making as well. The Supreme Court of the United States is the highest court in the land, and its decisions are binding on all other courts in the country. When the Supreme Court rules on a constitutional issue, its decision becomes federal law.
The Legislative Process
The federal legislative process begins with the introduction of a bill. Bills can be introduced by any member of either house of Congress, but most bills are introduced by senators. The bill is then assigned to a committee for study. If the committee approves the bill, it is reported back to the Senate or House, as the case may be, with a recommendation that it pass.
The next step is for the Senate or House to debate and vote on the bill. If it passes by simple majority (51 percent of the votes cast), it goes on to the next chamber, where the process is repeated. If it fails to pass, the bill dies.
In order for a bill to become law, both houses must approve identical versions of the bill and send it to the president for his signature. If he signs it, it becomes law. If he vetoes it, it takes a two-thirds vote of each chamber to override his veto and make the bill into law without his signature.
The Executive Branch
The President of the United States is the head of the executive branch. The President is responsible for carrying out the laws of the United States. The President also has the power to veto laws that have been passed by Congress.
The executive branch is made up of agencies that are responsible for carrying out specific tasks. Federal agencies are organized into different departments. The Department of Justice, for example, is responsible for enforcing federal laws. The Department of Education is responsible for ensuring that all children in the United States have access to a quality education.
The President appoints the heads of federal agencies. These agency heads are known as “Cabinet secretaries.” The Cabinet secretaries advise the President on matters relating to their department.
The Judicial Branch
The primary responsibility of the judicial branch is to interpret the meaning of laws, especially as they apply to constitutional issues. When there is a disagreement about what a particular law means, it is the job of the courts to settle the issue.
The judicial branch is composed of three levels of courts. The court system begins with the 94 federal district courts, which are trial courtsthe courts in which cases originate. If a case involving a federal law is appealed, it goes to one of the 13 federal courts of appeals. If either party in an appellate case is not satisfied with the outcome, he or she may ask the Supreme Court of the United States to hear the case. The Supreme Court hears only those cases that raise important questions about the Constitution or federal law.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to establish lower federal courts and gives these courts jurisdiction over specific types of cases. For example, Congress has established federal district courts with jurisdiction over cases involving bankruptcy, patent law, and maritime law. There are currently 94 federal district courts: 1 in each state, 3 in Texas, 1 in each Territory (Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana Islands), and 1 in Washington, DC
The Constitution gives the federal government certain powers, which are listed in the Constitution. These are called enumerated or delegated powers. The 10th Amendment reserves all other powers to the states. This is called the reserved powers doctrine, and it forms the basis of federalism in the United States.
The Constitution does not, however, give the federal government exclusive power over all matters. Even though the Constitution does not expressly grant certain powers to the states, these powers are implied by the 10th Amendment. These are called concurrent powers, and they include such things as taxation and public education.
In some cases, both the federal government and the states may have power over the same area. This is called concurrent jurisdiction. For example, both the federal government and the states have power to tax income.
The Bill of Rights
Federal law is the body of law created by the federal government of a country. It deals with matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the federal government. In the United States, federal law consists of many sources, including the Constitution, statutes, executive orders, treaties, and court opinions.
The Constitution is the supreme law of the land in the United States. It establishes the framework for the government and sets forth the rights of citizens. Federal statutes are laws enacted by Congress. Executive orders are issued by presidents and can have the force of law if they are based on constitutional authority or delegated authority from Congress. Treaties are agreements between countries and can be binding on both nations even if they are not part of domestic law. Court opinions are pronouncements on what the law is by judicial bodies such as the Supreme Court.
The Bill of Rights is a list of ten amendments to the Constitution that spell out Americans’ fundamental rights. These include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and the right to a fair trial, among others. The Bill of Rights was ratified in 1791 along with the rest of the Constitution.
The amendment process is one of the ways the Founding Fathers ensured that the Constitution would be a living document, reflecting the changing needs of a burgeoning nation. The ability to amend the Constitution has also allowed for a more orderly resolution of sharp political differences and substantive policy disagreements.
The process for amending the Constitution, outlined in Article V, is intentionally arduous—it requires the support of two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of state legislatures—in order to prevent hasty or rash changes. Amendments can be proposed either by Congress, with a two-thirds vote in both the House and Senate, or by a constitutional convention convened at the request of two-thirds of state legislatures. Once an amendment is proposed, it must be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures or by conventions in three-fourths of states before it becomes part of the Constitution. Given this high bar, it’s not surprising that very few amendments have been approved since 1787.
There are three branches of the federal government: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The executive branch consists of the president and his administration. The president is responsible for carrying out laws, and the administration includes agencies that help him do this. The legislative branch is Congress, which is responsible for making laws. The judicial branch is the Supreme Court, which interprets laws and decides whether they are constitutional.