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The Political System of the USA.
The USA is a federal union of 50 states. The basic law is the
constitution, adopted in 1787, which prescribes the structure of
national government and lists its rights and fields of authority. Each
state has its government and all of them have the dual character of both
Federal and State government. The political system of the USA is divided
into three branches: judicial, legislative and executive. Each branch
holds a certain degree of power over the others, and all take part in
the governmental process.
The flag. It is called the stars and the stripes and old glory. It was
adopted in 1777. The red stripes proclaim courage, the white – liberty,
and the field of blue stands for loyalty.
The coat of arms. The coat of arms of the US represents an eagle with
wings outspread, holding a bangle of rods (the symbol of administer) in
the left claw and olive twig (the emblem of love) in the right claw. The
motto of the coat of arms is ‘one out of many” (aplinibus nun).
The nick name. It was in 1812 when the nickname of the US government
“Uncle Sam” appeared. ‘Uncle’ Samuel Wilson supplied beef to the
American army, during the war of 1812, standing his barrels with the
letters ‘U. S.’ The army as ‘Uncle Sam’s’ knew this beef, and later on
this familiar name became associated with the US government.
The constitution of the USA. Although the American system of government
is based on Great Britain’s, it differs in having a written
constitution, that is the bases of all government and law. The
constitution of the US was adopted after the War of Independence on the
17th of September 1787. It lists the set of rules, law regulations,
which provide the practical norms, regulating the work of the
government. The document imbodied the practical theories of man of
property. The main principle underline the constitution was as follows:
“Private property is the backbone of liberty”. It was put forward by a
rich plantation owner from Virginia James Madison, who is known to be a
father of the constitution.
The constitution consists of Preamble and seven articles. 27
amendments have so far been added to its original text. The first 10
amendments, known as “the Bill of Rights’, were added in a group in
1791. These amendments establish the individual rights and freedoms to
all people of the states, including freedom of speech, freedom of the
press, freedom of worship etc. Americans fill that of all freedoms,
proclaimed in the constitution, there is only one freedom – the freedom
of enterprise. But it means freedom of the wealthy people only. The 21st
amendment limited the President’s ruling by maximum two terms.
The legislative branch. Supreme legislative power in the American
government lies with Congress: the Senate, the upper house; and the
House of the Representatives – the Lower House. Each state has its own
government – State Assemblies or, Legislatures with two houses.
According to the constitution of the USA, all citizens of both sexes
over 18 years of age has a right of voting, but in reality the number of
voters is much smaller. The main task of Congress is to make federal
laws, to levy federal taxes, to make rules for trade, to corn money, to
organise Armed forces, to declare war, to make amendments to the
constitution or put foreign treaties into effect.
Under the constitution the US Senate has some special powers, not
given to the House of representatives. It approves or disapproves the
main presidential appointments: Ambassadors. Cabinet Members and federal
judges; also ratify by a 2/3 vote treatments between the USA and foreign
countries. The House of Representatives has a special power of its own –
to invent a bill to raise money.
The Senate is composed of 100 members – two from each of 50 states,
who are elected for a term of * years. Although congressional elections
take place every two years, only 1/3 of the Senate is reelected. A
Senator must be at least 30ty years old, a citizen of the USA for 9
years and a resident of the state from which he is elected. Democrats
sit in the western part of the chamber – on Vice-president right.
Republicans sit on his left. Vice-president presides over the Senate and
conducts debates. The Senate is stable and more conservative than the
House of Representatives and many Senators are more experienced
The House of representatives has 450 members. The number of
Representatives depends on the population of each state. A
Representative must be at least 25 years age, a US citizen for 7 years
and live in the state from which he is elected. Democrats sit on the
Speakers right, republicans – on his left. The Speaker presides over the
House and conducts debates. The Speaker, like Vice-president, may vote.
Most of the Congressmen are layers, businessman and bankers. The
American press as an unrepresentative institution sometimes criticises
the US Congress.
The Congress in work. A new Congress session begins on the 3rd of
January each odd number year and continues for two years. A Congressman
must work long and hard. But most of their work is done in committee
meetings. Here bills are studied, experts are consulted, and
recommendations are made to the whole House of Senate. During a two year
term of a Congress, as many as 20000 bills are introduced. There are 16
‘standing’ or permanent committees in the Senate, and 22 in the House.
They accept and improve some bills, but reject most of them. For a bill
becomes a law it must be read, studied in committees, commented on and
amended in the Senate or House chamber in which it was introduced. It is
then voted upon. If it passes, it is sent to the other house where a
similar procedure occurs. Members of both houses work together in
“conference committees” if the chambers have passed different versions
of the same bill. Groups who try to persuade Congressmen to vote for or
against a bill are known as “lobbies”. When both houses of Congress pass
a bill on which they agree, it is sent to the president for his
signature. If President is disapproves, he vetoes and refusing to sign
it, and sends it back to Congress. President’s objection are read and
debated. To overcome the President’s veto, the bill must get a 2/3
majority in each chamber.
Lobbyists. Often discussing Congress of the USA, the third chamber is
mentioned. It’s a specific American phenomena called lobbies. Today ifs
big corporations, social organisations, foreign diplomats, who try to
influence lawmaking process in their favour. This is done with the help
of lobbyists. Practically lobbyism (backstage influence in legislation)
has become legal, it means, that the passing of a bill can be prevented,
if it doesn’t suit the interests of a definite group of big business.
Lobbyists make all themselves legislative councils. More and more people
realise that legislation is shaped as much by the hidden influences, as
by the public debates.
The executive branch. The executive power in the USA belongs to the
President and his Administration. The Presidency in the USA is the
highest governmental office. President in the USA is the head of the
state and the government, and also the commander-in-chief of the US
Vice-resident and the Cabinet assist president. The President and
Vice-president are elected for a term of four years and can be
reelected. President must be a natural-born citizen of the USA and at
least 35 years old, and for at least 14 years resident of the USA. The
term of office of the President begins on the 2nd of January.
Presidential elections are head in two stages – in November and
December. Before the elections the candidates for Presidency tour the
country, meeting people and delivering speeches.
The president, as the chief formulator of public policy, often
proposes legislation to Congress. The president can also veto (forbid)
any bill passed by Congress. The veto can be overridden by a two-thirds
vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives. As head of his
political party, with ready access to the news media, the president can
easily influence public opinion regarding issues and legislation that he
deems vital. President conducts foreign affairs, signed documents,
appoints diplomats, Cabinet Members, federal judges with the consent and
advice of the Senate. He outlines the course of his administration threw
Vice-president presides over the Senate, his other duties are
indefinite. He takes the president’s office, if the president is unable
to finish his term. So Vice-president is ‘a forgotten man of the
American politics’. A Cabinet of 12 members assists the US President.
Cabinet secretaries correspond to European ministers. They are heads of
different departments and are responsible to President. Today these 13
departments are State, Treasury, Defence, Justice, Interior,
Agriculture, Commerce, Labour, Health and Human Services, Housing and
Urban Development, Transportation, Energy and Education. The State
Department ranks ahead of others. The political power of the Secretary
of the State is the second only to that of the president. He must
maintains peace and negotiates economic and political treatness.
Besides, President has an inner Cabinet, the so-called ‘white-house
office’, i. e. immediate assistance and advises of the President. The
House of Representatives may bring charges against the President, it is
called ‘impeachment’ – a formal accusation against a public official by
a legislative body, for treason, bribery and other high crimes.
Under the Constitution, the president is primarily responsible for
foreign relations with other nations. He often represents the United
States abroad in consultations with other heads of state, and, through
his officials, he negotiates treaties with over countries. Such treaties
must be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. Presidents also
negotiate with other nations less formal “executive agreements” that are
not subject to Senate approval.
Inauguration. Inauguration always takes place on the 20th of January, it
is an official act of installing the President of the USA to his office.
Inauguration is connected with some traditions. Thus the incumbent.
President gives dinner on the eve in honour of the President elected and
to conduct him threw the White House’. By 12 o’clock of the 2nd of
January two participants of the ceremony and guests take their places in
front of the Capitol. The central point of the ceremony is the taking of
an oath by the President and the delivering of his Inaugural speech, it
is regarded as a declaration of principles, proclaimed by the new
administration. The ceremony ends in a military parade.
The major political parties. The US began as a one party political
system. But gradually two-party system appeared. The present-day
Democratic Party was founded in 1828, representing southern states. It
united slave owners. The Republican Party was founded in 1854 and united
people from Northeast, who were against slavering. The emblem of the
Democratic Party is a donkey. The emblem of the Republican Party is an
elephant. The main task of the parties is to win elections. One of the
reasons of stability at the two party systems is family tradition to
inherit politics from fathers.
Judiciary. The judicial branch is headed by the Supreme Court, which is
the only court specifically created by the Constitution. In addition,
the Congress has established 11 federal courts of appeal and. below
them, 91 federal district courts. Federal judges are appointed for life
or voluntary retirement, and can only be removed from office through the
process of impeachment and trial in the Congress.
Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases arising out of the
Constitution: laws and treaties of the United States: maritime cases;
issues involving foreign citizens or governments; and cases in which the
federal government itself is a party. Ordinarily, federal courts do not
hear cases arising out of the laws of individual states.
The Supreme Court today consists of a chief justice and eight
associate justices. With minor exceptions, all its cases reach the Court
on appeal from lower federal or state courts. Most of these cases
involve disputes over the interpretation of laws and legislation. In
this capacity, the Court’s most important function consists of
determining whether congressional legislation or executive action
violates the Constitution. This power of judicial review is not
specifically provided for by the Constitution; rather, it is the Court’s
interpretation of its Constitutional role as established in the
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