Checks and Balances

Checks and Balances

A Chapter by Debbie Barry

An essay about the American three-party system of government. Written for HIS 303: The American Constitution.


Checks and Balances



Each of the three branches of the United States government is checked and balanced by each of the other two branches.  The legislative branch of the government is charged with creating the laws of this country, while the executive branch is responsible for carrying out those laws.  It falls to the judicial branch to interpret the law, making me picture the popular recycling icon of three arrows in a circle when I think of the branches of government.

The executive branch checks and balances the judicial branch only in that the President of the United States "appoints Supreme Court and other federal judges" (Kelly, 2010, para. 5).  The executive branch's checks and balances of the legislative branch are the President's power to veto bills that are passed by Congress, the ability of the President to call special sessions of Congress, the ability of the President to recommend legislation to be considered by Congress, and the power of the President to appeal to the people to seek support for or resistance to pending legislation, upcoming elections, and other issues.

The legislative branch checks and balances the executive branch in that it holds the power to overturn a presidential veto by a two-thirds vote.  In addition, Congress controls funding for the actions of the executive branch, and also holds the power to "remove the president through impeachment" (Kelly, 2010, para. 2).  The Senate, which is one of the two houses of Congress, has special checks and balances of the executive branch, in that the Senate must approve all treaties, and must also approve all presidential appointments.  The legislative branch checks and balances the judicial branch by creating lower courts, by approving the appointment of judges, and by removing judges through impeachment.

The judicial branch checks and balances the executive branch in that, once a judge has been appointed for life, the judge is "free from controls from the executive branch" (Kelly, 2010, para. 6).  Also, through application of the judicial review, the courts can examine executive actions and judge them unconstitutional.  The judicial branch checks and balances the legislative branch only through the judicial branch's ability to "judge legislative acts to be unconstitutional" (Kelly, 2010, para. 7).

The power of the President to veto legislation, and of Congress to overturn a veto are both very effective checks and balances between the executive and the legislative branches, because neither branch can pass a new law until both branches have considered it.  Although Congress can overturn the President's veto, it takes a two-thirds vote, instead of  simple majority vote, to do so.  The judicial branch ruling on the constitutionality of laws is also effective, as it effectively checks not only the legislative branch, but also, to some extent, the executive branch.



Kelly, M.  (2010).  Checks and Balances: Defining Government Authority.  Retrieved March 9.   2010, from 

© 2017 Debbie Barry

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Debbie Barry
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Added on November 10, 2017
Last Updated on November 10, 2017
Tags: eesay, American history, government, three-party system, checks and balances

A Journey through My College Papers


Debbie Barry
Debbie Barry

Clarkston, MI

I live with my husband in southeastern Michigan with our two cats, Mister and Goblin. We enjoy exploring history through French and Indian War re-enactment and through medieval re-enactment in the So.. more..