The division of powers between three branches – legislative, executive and judicial – is an essential element of the democracy. The system of checks and balances was designed to provide. Independence, transparency and high efficiency of the interactions between these branches; it gave meaning to the idea of separation of powers. The legislature creates the laws, the executive branch enforces them, and the judiciary interprets the laws and decides whether they are in compliance with the Constitution of the United States.
The overall goal of the system is to limit the amount of power that each branch has and to make sure that the country’s leaders will not abuse their power or make a wrong decision. The Constitution of the United States proposes a variety of means to enable the system of checks and balances.
The strongest branch is the legislature. The US Constitution gives a preference to the Congress providing it with more instruments of checks and balances than both the executive and the judicial branches. For example, the President, who represents the executive power, can veto the bills issued by the Congress (the legislative power), and return them with his comments and observations. However, this right is not absolute and the law can come into force in spite of the President’s veto if it gets enough votes in Congress.
This rule is set to provide support for popular laws and it gives more weight to the legislative branch. Another example that illustrates the power of the legislature is that the Congress checks and balances the power of the executive branch regarding international and military affairs. Despite the fact that the President is the Commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the United States, the exclusive right to declare war belongs to Congress, and all decisions regarding financing of military operations must too be supported by the legislative branch.
Additionally, all the international agreements signed by the President must undergo the procedure of ratification by the Congress. Moreover, the agreement should receive a real support from Congress since its adoption requires two-thirds of the votes in the Senate. Finally the legislative branch has the control over the executive because according to the US Constitution Congress can remove the President of the United States, as well as federal officials and judges from the office through the procedure of impeachment. For these reasons the legislative branch is believed to be the most powerful.
The judicial branch, on the other hand, appears to be the weakest of the branches. First of all, the candidates for the Supreme Court justices are nominated by the President and must be approved by Congress (the Senate). Thus, the judicial branch depends from both executive and legislative branches as they decide who will be appointed as judges. The second aspect that weakens the judicial branch is that in spite of the fact that the President appoints the justices to the Supreme Court for life, they can be released from their duties through the procedure of impeachment by the Congress.
Moreover, although the judicial branch checks the laws’ compliance with the Constitution and may revoke the law that was passed by the Congress if it contradicts the Constitution, the legislative branch can still make the amendments to the Constitution in spite of decisions the Supreme Court. Thus, the judicial branch is limited by both legislature and the President.