Social Studies - 2018-19

CE.6b - Separation of Powers and Checks and Balances

The student will apply social science skills to understand the American constitutional government at the national level by

b) explaining the principle of separation of powers and the operation of checks and balances;

Adopted: 2015



The powers of the national government are separated among the three branches of the government to limit any one branch from abusing its power.


Separation of powers

The Constitution of the United States in Articles I, II, and III defines the powers of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of the national government.

Checks and balances

Each of the three branches of the national government limits the exercise of power by the other two branches.

The legislative branch

 The Congress checks the president when legislators

o override presidential vetoes

o impeach and convict a president

o approve the budget

o approve presidential appointments.

 The Congress checks the courts when legislators

o confirm or refuse to confirm federal judges/justices

o impeach and convict judges/justices.

The executive branch

 The president checks Congress when the president

o proposes legislation

o prepares an annual budget for Congress to approve

o call special sessions of Congress

o vetoes legislation Congress has passed.

 The president checks the courts when the president

o appoints judges/justices

o grants pardons and reprieves.

The judicial branch

 The courts check Congress when judges/justices declare acts of Congress to be unconstitutional.

 The courts check the president when judges/justices declare executive actions to be unconstitutional.


Updated: May 16, 2018