Рефераты. Правительство Соединенных Штатов

hearings are open to the public and are widely reported in the mass media.

Congressional investigations thus represent one important tool available to

lawmakers to inform the citizenry and arouse public interest in national

issues. Congressional committees also have the power to compel testimony

from unwilling witnesses, and to cite for contempt of Congress witnesses

who refuse to testify and for perjury those who give false testimony.


In contrast to European parliamentary systems, the selection and behavior

of U.S. legislators has little to do with central party discipline. Each of

the major American political parties is basically a coalition of local and

state organizations which join together as a functioning national

party—Republican or Democratic—during the presidential elections at four-

year intervals. Thus the members of Congress owe their positions to their

local or state electorate, not to the national party leadership nor to

their congressional colleagues. As a result, the legislative behavior of

representatives and senators tends to be individualistic and idiosyncratic,

reflecting the great variety of electorates represented and the freedom

that comes from having built a loyal personal constituency.

Congress is thus a collegial and not a hierarchical body. Power does not

flow from the top down, as in a corporation, but in practically every

direction. There is only minimal centralized authority, since the power to

punish or reward is slight. Congressional policies are made by shifting

coalitions which may vary from issue to issue. Sometimes, where there are

conflicting pressures—from the White House and from important economic or

ethnic groups—legislators will use the rules of procedure to delay a

decision so as to avoid alienating an influential sector. A matter may be

postponed on the grounds that the relevant committee held insufficient

public hearings. Or Congress may direct an agency to prepare a detailed

report before an issue is considered. Or a measure may be put aside

("tabled") by either house, thus effectively defeating it without rendering

a judgment on its substance.

There are informal or unwritten norms of behavior that often determine

the assignments and influence of a particular member. "Insiders,"

representatives and senators who concentrate on their legislative duties,

may be more powerful within the halls of Congress than "outsiders," who

gain recognition by speaking out on national issues. Members are expected

to show courtesy toward their colleagues and to avoid personal attacks, no

matter how extreme or unpalatable their opponents' policies may be. Members

are also expected to specialize in a few policy areas rather than claim

expertise in the whole range of legislative concerns. Those who conform to

these informal rules are more likely to be appointed to prestigious

committees or at least to committees that affect the interests of a

significant portion of their constituents.


Of the numerous techniques that Congress has adopted to influence the

executive branch, one of the most effective is the oversight function.

Congressional oversight prevents waste and fraud; protects civil liberties

and individual rights; ensures executive compliance with the law; gathers

information for making laws and educating the public: and evaluates

executive performance. It applies to Cabinet departments, executive

agencies, regulatory commissions and the presidency.

Congress' oversight function takes many forms:

—committee inquiries and hearings;

—formal consultations with and reports from the executive;

—Senate advice and consent for executive nominations and treaties;

—House impeachment proceedings and subsequent Senate trials;

—House and Senate proceedings under the 25th Amendment in the event that

the president becomes disabled, or the office of the vice president falls


—informal meetings between legislators and executive officials;

—congressional membership on governmental commissions; and

—studies by congressional committees and support agencies such as the

Congressional Budget Office, the General Accounting Office or the Office of

Technology Assessment—all arms of Congress.

The oversight power of Congress has helped to force officials out of

office, change policies and provide new statutory controls over the

executive. In 1949, for example, probes by special Senate investigating

subcommittees revealed corruption among high officials in the Truman

administration. This resulted in the reorganization of certain agencies and

the formation of a special White House commission to study corruption in

the government.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's televised hearings in the late

1960s helped to mobilize opposition to the Vietnam War. Congress' 1973

Watergate investigation exposed White House officials who illegally used

their positions for political advantage, and the House Judiciary

Committee's impeachment proceedings against President Richard Nixon the

following year ended his presidency. Select committee inquiries in 1975 and

1976 identified serious abuses by intelligence agencies and initiated new

legislation to control certain intelligence activities.

In 1983, congressional inquiry into a proposal to consolidate border

inspection operations of the U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Immigration

and Naturalization Service raised questions about the executive's authority

to make such a change without new legislation. In 1987, oversight efforts

disclosed statutory violations in the executive branch's secret arms sales

to Iran and the diversion of arms profits to anti-government forces in

Nicaragua, known as the contras. Congressional findings resulted in

proposed legislation to prevent similar occurrences.

Oversight power is an essential check in monitoring the presidency and

controlling public policy.



The third branch of the federal government, the judiciary, consists of a

system of courts spread throughout the country, headed by the Supreme Court

of the United States.

A system of state courts existed before the Constitution was drafted.

There was considerable controversy among the delegates to the

Constitutional Convention as to whether a federal court system was needed,

and whether it should supplant the state courts. As in other matters under

debate, a compromise was reached in which the state courts were continued

while the Constitution mandated a federal judiciary with limited power.

Article III of the Constitution states the basis for the federal court


The judicial power of the United States shall be vested in one Supreme

Court, and such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time

ordain and establish.

With this guide, the first Congress divided the nation into districts

and created federal courts for each district. From that beginning has

evolved the present structure: the Supreme Court, 11 courts of appeals, 91

district courts, and three courts of special jurisdiction. Congress today

retains the power to create and abolish federal courts, as well as to

determine the number of judges in the federal judiciary system. It cannot,

however, abolish the Supreme Court.

The judicial power extends to cases arising under the Constitution; laws

and treaties of the United States; admiralty and maritime cases; cases

affecting ambassadors, ministers and consuls of foreign countries in the

United States; controversies in which the U.S. government is a party; and

controversies between states (or their citizens) and foreign nations (or

their citizens or subjects). The 11th Amendment removed from federal

jurisdiction cases in which citizens of one state were the plaintiffs and

the government of another state was the defendant. It did not disturb

federal jurisdiction in cases in which a state government is a plaintiff

and a citizen of another state the defendant.

The power of the federal courts extends both to civil actions for

damages and other redress, and to criminal cases arising under federal law.

Article III has resulted in a complex set of relationships between state

and federal courts. Ordinarily, federal courts do not hear cases arising

under the laws of individual states. However, some cases over which federal

courts have jurisdiction may also be heard and decided by state courts.

Both court systems thus have exclusive jurisdiction in some areas and

concurrent jurisdiction in others.

The Constitution safeguards judicial independence by providing that

federal judges shall hold office "during good behavior"—in practice, until

they die, retire or resign, although a judge who commits an offense while

in office may be impeached in the same way as the president or other

officials of the federal government. U.S. judges are appointed by the

president and confirmed by the Senate. Congress also determines the pay

scale of judges.


The Supreme Court is the highest court of the United States, and the only

one specifically created by the Constitution. A decision of the Supreme

Court cannot be appealed to any other court. Congress has the power to fix

the number of judges sitting on the Court and, within limits, decide what

kind of cases it may hear, but it cannot change the powers given to the

Supreme Court by the Constitution itself.

The Constitution is silent on the qualifications for judges. There is no

requirement that judges be lawyers, although, in fact, all federal judges

and Supreme Court justices have been members of the bar.

Since the creation of the Supreme Court almost 200 years ago, there have

been slightly more than 100 justices. The original Court consisted of a

chief justice and five associate justices. For the next 80 years, the

number of justices varied until, in 1869, the complement was fixed at one

chief justice and eight associates. The chief justice is the executive

officer of the Court but, in deciding cases, has only one vote, as do the

associate justices.

The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in only two kinds of cases:

those involving foreign dignitaries and those in which a state is a party.

All other cases reach the Court on appeal from lower courts.

Of the several thousand cases filed annually, the Court usually hears

only about 150. Most of the cases involve interpretation of the law or of

the intent of Congress in passing a piece of legislation. A significant

amount of the work of the Supreme Court, however, consists of determining

whether legislation or executive acts conform to the Constitution. This

power of judicial review is not specifically provided for by the

Constitution. Rather, it is doctrine inferred by the Court from its reading

of the Constitution, and forcefully stated in the landmark Marbury vs.

Madison case of 1803. In its decision in that case, the Court held that "a

legislative act contrary to the Constitution is not law," and further

observed that "it is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial

department to say what the law is." The doctrine has also been extended to

cover the activities of state and local governments.

Decisions of the Court need not be unanimous; a simple majority

prevails, provided at least six justices—the legal quorum—participate in

the decision. In split decisions, the Court usually issues a majority and a

minority—or dissenting—opinion, both of which may form the basis for future

decisions by the Court. Often justices will write separate concurring

opinions when they agree with a decision, but for reasons other than those

cited by the majority.


The second highest level of the federal judiciary is made up of the courts

of appeals, created in 1891 to facilitate the disposition of cases and ease

the burden on the Supreme Court. The United States is divided into 11

separate appeals regions, each served by a court of appeals with from three

to 15 sitting judges.

The courts of appeals review decisions of the district courts (trial

courts with federal jurisdiction) within their areas. They are also

empowered to review orders of the independent regulatory agencies, such as

the Federal Trade Commission, in cases where the internal review mechanisms

of the agencies have been exhausted and there still exists substantial

disagreement over legal points.

Below the courts of appeals are the district courts. The 50 states are

divided into 89 districts so that litigants may have a trial within easy

reach. Additionally, there is one in the District of Columbia and one in

the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, not a state of the union, but part of the

United States. From one to 27 judges sit in each of the district courts.

Depending on case load, a judge from one district may temp!) rarity sit in

another district. Congress fixes the boundaries of the districts according

to population, size and volume of work. Some of the smaller states

constitute a district by themselves. while the larger states, such as New

York, California and Texas, have four districts each.

Except in the District of Columbia, judges must be residents of the

district in which they permanently serve. District courts hold their

sessions at periodic intervals in different cities of the district.

Most cases and controversies heard by these courts involve federal

offenses such as misuse of the mails, theft of federal property, and

violations of pure food, banking and counterfeiting laws. These are the

only federal courts where grand juries indict those accused of crimes, and

juries decide the cases.


In addition to the federal courts of general jurisdiction, it has been

necessary from time to time to set up courts for special purposes. These

are known as "legislative" courts because they were created by

congressional action. Judges in these courts, like their peers in other

federal courts, are appointed for life terms by the president, with Senate


Perhaps the most important of these special courts is the Court of

Claims, established in 1855 to render judgment on monetary claims against

the United States. Other special courts include the Customs Court, which

has exclusive jurisdiction over civil actions involving taxes or quotas on

imported goods, and the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals which hears

appellate motions from decisions of the Customs Court and the U.S. Patent



Although the Constitution has changed in many aspects since it was first

adopted, its basic principles remain the same now as in 1789:

— The three main branches of government are separate and distinct from one

another. The powers given to each are delicately balanced by the powers of

the other two. Each branch serves as a check on potential excesses of the


— The Constitution, together with laws passed according to its provisions,

and treaties entered into by the president and approved by the Senate,

stands above all other laws, executive acts and regulations.

— All persons are equal before the law and are equally entitled to its

protection. All states are equal, and none can receive special treatment

from the federal government. Within

the limits of the Constitution, each state must recognize and respect the

laws of the others. State governments, like the federal government, must be

democratic in form, with final authority resting with the people.

— The people have the right to change their form of national government by

legal means defined in the Constitution itself.

Few Americans, however, would defend their country's record as perfect.

American democracy is in a constant state of evolution. As Americans review

their history, they recognize errors of performance and failures to act,

which have delayed the nation's progress. They know that more mistakes will

be made in the future.

Yet the U.S. government still represents the people, and is dedicated to

the preservation of liberty. The right to criticize the government

guarantees the right to change it when it strays from the essential

principles of the Constitution. So long as the preamble to the Constitution

is heeded, the republic will stand. In the words of Abraham Lincoln,

"government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not

perish from the earth."




The Bill of Rights______________________





Страницы: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

2012 © Все права защищены
При использовании материалов активная ссылка на источник обязательна.