CHECKS AND BALANCES
If Congress proposes a law that the president thinks is unwise, the president can veto it. That means the proposal does not become law. Congress can enact the law despite the president's views only if two-thirds of the members of both houses vote in favor of it.
If Congress passes a law which is then challenged in the courts as unconstitutional. the Supreme Court has the power to declare the law unconstitutional and therefore no longer in effect.
The president has the power to make treaties with other nations and to make all appointments to federal positions, including the position of Supreme Court justice. The Senate, however, must approve all treaties and confirm all appointments before they become official. In this way the Congress can prevent the president from making unwise appointments.
BILL OF RIGHTS
- To all Americans, another basic foundation of their representative democracy is the Bill of Rights, adopted in 1791. This consists of 10 very short paragraphs, which guarantee freedom and individual rights and forbid interference with the lives of individuals by the government. Each paragraph is an Amendment to the original Constitution.
- Bill of Rights guaranteed freedom of religion, of speech and of the press. Americans have the right to assemble in public places, to protest government actions and to demand change. They have the right to own weapons if they wish. Because of the Bill of Rights, neither police nor soldiers can slop and search a person without good reason. They also cannot search a person's home without legal permission from a court to do so.
- Bill of Rights guarantees Americans the right to a speedy trial if accused of a crime. Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden.
- 16 amendments to the Constitution as of 1991: guarantee citizenship and full rights of citizenship to all people regardless of race, gives women the right to vote and another lowered the national voting age to 18 years.