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American Political System

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In March 1 789, the United States Constitutionwent into effect. Two years later, a further document consisting of 10 additions to the Constitution, called Amendments, was ratified This document was the Bill of Rights,which together with the original Constitution (and several further Amendments since then) has been the foundation of American democracy for over 200 years.

On the one hand, the Constitution guarantees the rights of individual states to set up their own governments, as long as these are democratic, and specifies what powers must be centralized; on the other hand, the Constitution ensures that no one person or group within the government can become too powerful by introducing a system of “checks and balances”.This means that the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government all have powers to prevent one of the other branches from having too much power.

The legislative branchconsists of elected representatives from all states, who are responsible for making federal laws, levying federal taxes, declaring war or ratifying foreign treaties. This law-making body is called Congressand is divided into two parts or houses. Members of the House of Representativesare elected every two years. Each of them represents a district in his or her home state. The number of Representatives from each state is determined by the population of the state (California, for example has 52 Representatives, Alaska only 1).

The other House is the Senate,to which two senators from each state are elected. Senators serve six-year terms, but they are not all elected at the same time. Every two years, one-third of the Senate is elected. This means that there is usually a mixture of experienced and newly elected senators.

To make a federal law in Congress, several steps are necessary. Firstly, a proposal, or bill, is introduced in one of the Houses, and is discussed in that House and voted upon. If it passes there, it is sent to the other House and given the same procedure. There are lobbies,i.e. groups of people supporting a particular interest, who will often try to influence members of Congress to vote for or against a bill. There are also committees that mediate between the two Houses if they differ on a particular bill. When both Houses of Congress pass a bill, it is sent to the president .Only after he has signed it does it become law. If he does not agree with the bill, he may veto it. In that case, it can only be enacted if two-thirds of the members of both Houses vote in favour of it. Since the majority in one of the Houses, or even in both Houses of Congress, often belongs to a different political party than the president, this can be a very effective check on party politics either way.



The presidentis the chief executive of the United States. He is elected to a four-year term. A president can only be re-elected once. The powers of the presidency are great, but not unlimited. Most of his political activities must be approved by the Senate He has the authority to appoint federal justices and the heads of the different government departments, called secretaries, who make up his Cabinet. But all appointments are subject to confirmation by the Senate, so that no president can build up a powerful personal support group for himself against the wishes of Congress. The president is also the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. One of the president's main responsibilities is dealing with other nations. In this he is assisted by the Secretary of State, i.e. the minister responsible for foreign affairs.



The judicial branchis headed by the Supreme Court.All federal judges are appointed for life The main duty of the Supreme Court is to decide whether laws passed by Congress, or any executive action initiated by the Administration, are constitutional, so that here again one can see the system of checks and balances in action.

The writers of the United States Constitution did not think that political partieswere a necessary element of a democracy, but in the ensuing years such parties did develop as common-interest groups formed to achieve national goals together. Today the United States has two major political parties, the Democratic and Republican parties. The former is usually considered to be more liberal and the latter more conservative. To run for a high political office one need not be a member of any political party, but experience has shown that it is extremely difficult to meet the costs of an election campaign without the support of one of the major parties, so that in effect the winners of national elections are mostly either Democrats or Republicans

 

Ex.7. Practice saying these words.


ratified
specifies
centralized

legislative
executive
judicial

procedure
mixture
chief

campaign
levying
guarantee


 

Ex.8. Match the phrases in A with their equivalents in B.

A B
1. to go into effect a) главнокомандующий вооруженными силами
2. the Bill of Rights b) быть назначенным пожизненно
3. a system of checks and balances c) договор
4. levying federal taxes d) вступить в силу
5. law – making body e) система сдержек и противовесов
6. a treaty f) голосовать за или против законопроекта
7. to vote for or against a bill g) законодательный орган
8. the commander – in chief of the armed forces h) избирательная кампания
9. to be appointed for life i) сбор федеральных налогов
10. an election campaign j) Билль о правах

 

Ex.9. Translate these sentences into Russian.

1. This means that the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government all have powers to prevent one of the other branches from too much power.

2. This means that there is a usually mixture of experienced and newly elected senators.

3. There are lobbies, i.e. groups of people supporting a particular interest, who will often try to influence members of Congress to vote for or against a bill.

4. In this case, it can only be enacted if two-thirds of the members of both Houses vote in favour of it.

5. A president can only be re-elected once. The powers of the presidency are great, but not unlimited.

6. But all appointments are subject to confirmation by the State, so that no president can build up a powerful personal support group for himself against the wishes of Congress.

7. The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court.

8. The main duty of the Supreme Court is to decide whether laws passed by Congress, or any executive action initiated by the Administration, are constitutional, so that here again one can see the system of checks and balances in action.

9. The writers of the United States Constitution did not think that political parties were a necessary element of a democracy, but in the ensuing years such parties did develop as common-interest groups formed to achieve national goal together.

10. The former is usually considered to be more liberal and the latter more conservative.

 

Ex.10. Use the text and answer the questions.

1. When did the US Constitution go into effect?

2. What was ratified two years latter?

3. What does the Constitution guarantee and specify?

4. What does it ensure?

5. What does the system of checks and balances mean?

6. Who does the legislative branch consist of?

7. What are they responsible for?

8. What do you know about the Senate?

9. How is a federal law in Congress made?

10. What do you know about the president election?

11. What does the President have the authority to do?

12. What do you know about the judicial branch?

13. What is the main duty of the Supreme Court?

14. What are the two major political parties in the USA?

15. What need one do to run for a high political office?

 

Ex.11. Read the definitions and guess what is meant in each case. Use the words in the box.

procedure, constitution, a lobby, democracy, an election, politics, duties, tax, experience, the president

 

1. a group of people supporting a particular interest –

2. the system of laws which formally states people’s rights and duties –

3. an amount of money that you have to pay to the government so that it can pay for public services –

4. a way of doing something especially the usual and correct way –

5. the person who has highest political position and is the leader of the country which has no king or queen –

6. the actions or activities concerned with achieving and using power in a country or society –

7. tasks that you have to do for your job, or they are part of your job –

8. a system of government in which people choose their rulers by voting for them in election –

9. knowledge or skill in a particular job or activity, which you have gained because you have done that job or activity for a long –

10. a process in which people vote to choose a person or group of people to hold an official position –


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