Social Studies - 2019-20

GOVT.7b - Checks and Balances & Separation of Powers

The student will apply social science skills to understand the organization and powers of the national government by 

b) analyzing the relationships among the three branches in a system of checks and balances and separation of powers; 

Adopted: 2015


Big Themes/Concepts: Systems, Limited Government, Governmental Systems, Power & Authority, Order vs. Chaos

Legislative Essential QuestionsExecutive Essential QuestionsJudicial Essential Questions

What makes a successful Congress?

Whose views should members of Congress represent when voting?

What should be limits on the powers of Congress?

Can and should the lawmaking process be improved?

What makes a good President?

Does the current electoral process result in the best candidates for President?

How much power should the President have?

Is the bureaucracy essential to good government?

How should the federal budget reflect Americans' priorities?

How should the United States interact with other countries?

How can the judiciary balance individual rights with the common good?

What should be the role of the judicial branch?

Does the structure of federal court system allow to administer justice effectively?

To what extent has the judiciary protected the rights of privacy, security, and personal freedom?

Why are there ongoing struggles for civil rights?

Each branch always has the other two branches looking over their shoulder. 

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


A constitutional system of checks and balances and separation of powers gives each of the three branches of government ways to limit the powers of the other branches. 


Checks of the legislative branch 
Checks of the executive branch 
Checks of the judicial branch 

 Over the executive branch: 

o To override presidential vetoes 

o To impeach and convict a president 

o To approve treaties 

o To approve presidential appointments 

 Over the judicial branch: 

o To approve federal judges/justices 

o To impeach and convict judges/justices 

 Over the legislative branch: 

o To veto acts of Congress 

o To call special sessions of Congress 

 Over the judicial branch: 

o To appoint federal judges/justices 

 Over the legislative branch: 

o To declare laws to be unconstitutional 

 Over the executive branch: 

o To declare executive actions to be unconstitutional 

Separation of Powers 

 Government power is distributed among the three branches of government. 

 Each branch is independent of one another. 

 Although there is a separation of power, each branch participates in the functions of the other two through a system of checks and balance


Updated: Aug 03, 2017