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Posted on October 1st, 2012, by

Historically, the US political system was grounded on the system of checks and balances. This system implied the division of power between three major branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Basically, the division of power was essential to maintain democracy and prevent the usurpation of power by either branch or an individual. At the same time, the checks and balances system naturally implies the existence of certain restrictions which limit the power of either branch. In this regard, the legislative power is mainly under the control of the Congress which the national legislative institution. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the role of the Congress in the system of checks and balances can hardly be underestimated, especially in the historical context when the US Constitution was implemented and the political system of the country was developed.

First of all, it is worth mentioning the fact that the US Constitution was implemented after the US had gained independence and the country needed a strong political power. At the same time, the US did not have a model of a political system to follow because the adaptation of European models would definitely lead to the tyranny or the establishment of a dictatorial power because practically all European countries were absolute monarchies at the epoch. In such a context, the checks and balances system was essential, while the Congress, as the legislative branch of power, was a representative body, which was supposed to represent and protect interests of American people through legislative acts and through performing control over the executive power.

In this respect, the Congress was granted not only with legislative power solely, but it was also granted with the function of control, which the Congress could apply if the President or in some cases other representatives of the executive branch of power violated laws or acted in a way (Kennedy et al., 144), which violated Constitutional norms or other legal norms. At this point, the Congress enhanced the power of the Supreme Court, as the top body of the judicial power in the country, which actually was initially considered to be weak and unable to influence political life of the country.

The mechanism of control over the executive power from the part of the Congress was simple but very effective. To put it more precisely, the main tool the Congress could use to control the executive power was and still is the impeachment. For instance, the impeachment of Andrew Johnson made the presidency much less powerful than the Congress. Also the procedure impeachment was applied to the US presidents, such as Nixon and Clinton, forcing the former to resign, while in relation to Clinton the efforts of the Congress failed (Davidson and Oleszek, 211). In addition, the House of Representatives was empowered to impeach federal officials both judicial and executive for treason, bribery or other high crimes. The Senate was empowered to try all impeachments. However, the procedure of impeachment may be quite complicated, especially in relation to the President, because a two-third majority is required for the impeachment of the President that makes the impeachment quite difficult to try if the President’s party holds the majority of seats in the Senate.

Thus, it is obvious that the Congress performs the functions of control over executive as well as judicial power. In such a way, the political system of the USA is balanced and functions effectively.

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