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013 Name one branch or part of the government.

B: System of Government

13. Name one branch or part of the government.
• Congress/legislative
• President/executive
• The courts/judicial

The United States government is divided into three branches (or parts), and all three share equal (or the same) amounts of power. The easiest way to understand the divisions (or parts) of American government is to think of the government as a tree, with three branches of the same size growing from the trunk (or the base, which is the biggest part of the tree). The government was set up this way in the Constitution by the Founding Fathers so that no one branch of government would be able to have absolute power (or total control) over another.

The first of the three branches of government is Congress, which is also known as the legislative branch. Legislative is another word for lawmaking, so Congress is the branch that makes and passes (or approves) laws. Congress also has the power to control how the government spends its money, known as appropriations. The legislative branch is located in the U.S. Capitol building, a famous building with a dome roof (or round top) in Washington, D.C.

The second branch is the executive branch, which is the president of the United States. Executive means “leader,” so it is the president’s job to lead the country and its military (or the people and organizations who fight for a country, usually to protect it). The vice president, the president’s top advisor (or most trusted guide), is also an important part of the executive branch. The president lives and works in the White House, which is also located in Washington, D.C. The executive branch also includes all of the departments, agencies, and government organizations that help carry out or put into practice the laws of the United States.

The third branch of government is the judicial (or legal) branch, also known as the courts. The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. is the highest or most powerful court in the judicial branch, but there are also many smaller federal (or national) courts. All of these courts interpret (or decide how to understand) and explain the laws passed by Congress.

Each division of the government holds separate and different powers, but the three branches are all part of the same tree and are all necessary for making sure that the United States’ system of government continues to work.


branch – a part of something, usually of the government or an organization; one of many parts
* Most American children learn about the three branches of government when they are in elementary school.

equal – the same; not different
* Do you and your wife do an equal amount of work in the home, or do you clean more than she does?

division – a separate part of something; a major part or section of an organization
* My husband and I work for the same company. I work in the research division and he works in the marketing division.

absolute power – total control; having all of the power; unshared power
* The little boy sometimes wished that he had absolute power in life so that he could play all day, get dirty, and eat nothing but pizza and ice cream.

lawmaking – legislative; related to making new laws and changing existing laws
* Who has lawmaking power for the city?

appropriations – related to how the government decides how it will spend its money
* Congress has been arguing over appropriation for months.

military – the people and organizations who fight for a country, usually to protect it
* Have you thought about joining the U.S. military after you finish high school?

advisor – a trusted guide; a person who gives advice and shares his or her opinions and beliefs
* Who is the president's advisor on education?

Supreme Court – the highest, most powerful court in the United States
* Only the most important legal questions are ruled on by the Supreme Court.