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Flashcards in U.S. Law & Government Deck (51)
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Articles of Confederation

The Articles of Confederation was the first constitution implemented in the United States. It was ratified in 1781, but was quickly replaced in 1788 by the Constitution we know today.


United States Constitution

The Constitution is the document that declared the structure of the United States government and rights of its citizens. It was ratified in 1788.

True or false:

The United States is a democracy.


The United States is actually a democratic republic, not a democracy. The technical definition of a democracy is a form of government in which the people decide policy matters directly--through town hall meetings or by voting on ballot initiatives and referendums.

A democratic republic, on the other hand, is a system in which the people choose representatives who, in turn, make policy decisions on their behalf but the ultimate authority lies with the citizens. The Framers of the Constitution were actually fearful of pure democracy.


What is due process?

Due process requires that legal proceedings be fair and that one has notice and opportunity to be heard.

  • Due process is mentioned in the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, which prohibit depriving a person of "life, liberty, or property without due process of law."



(in context of US government)

An amendment is a change to the United States Constitution. There are currently 27 amendments to the constitution.

What is addressed by the:

1st Amendment

The 1st Amendment entitles Americans to freedom of speech, religion, assembly, petition, and the press.


Bill of Rights

The Bill of Rights is the name for first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.


Which independent government agency was formed in 1970 to promote better health and environmental protection?

Environmental Protection Agency


What two chambers make up the United States Congress?

Senate and House of Representatives


What Supreme Court case ruled racial segregation constitutional, and promoted the idea "separate but equal?"

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896)

Obviously and thankfully, the world has progressed somewhat since 1896!


In the United States government's Executive Branch, what is the role of the Cabinet?

Cabinet members are responsible for leading various governmental departments and advising the president for questions related to these departments. They are appointed by the president and have received Senate approval (confirmation).


Powers that belong to both the state and federal governments are known as _____ _____.

concurrent powers

In several areas, state and federal governments have overlapping powers, which either can use. For instance, both the state and federal governments may tax their citizens.


What branch(es) of the United States government can declare war?

Only Congress can declare war.

The Constitution clearly grants only Congress the explicit right to "declare war."  However, this issue does frequently create major political debate, as another part of the Constitution also clearly names the President as the Commander in Chief of the armed forces. With this role, the President may defend the US or take military action without involving the Congress at times.


Which independent government agency is responsible for collecting intelligence about foreign countries and carrying out covert operations?

Central Intelligence Agency


Which independent government agency is in charge of national security and the Armed Forces (Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard)?

Department of Defense


Which independent government agency is responsible for international relations?

Department of State


Which independent government agency is responsible for the government's finances, issuing bonds whenever taxpayer funds are insufficient to cover public expenses?

Department of the Treasury


Which independent government agency investigates federal crimes and is in charge of counterintelligence?

Federal Bureau of Investigation


Which independent government agency regulates electronic communications among the United States and its territories?

Federal Communications Commission


Which independent government agency closely monitors international and federal communications and data, for the purpose of discovering threats to the U.S. or its citizens?

National Security Agency

What is addressed by the:

2nd Amendment

The 2nd Amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms.

What is addressed by the:

6th Amendment

The 6th Amendment entitles Americans to a trial by jury.

What is addressed by the:

13th Amendment

The 13th Amendment abolished slavery in the United States.

What is addressed by the:

15th Amendment

The 15th Amendment gave all male citizens, regardless of race or color, the right to vote.

What is addressed by the:

19th Amendment

The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote.



Anarchy is the absence of any governmental authority.



Federalism is a form of government in which power is divided between a central political authority and its constituent political units.

The United States follows federalism, because power resides jointly in the federal government and in the government of the states.



An oligarchy is a type of government in which power is concentrated in the hands of only a few people. Aristocracy (rule by the elite) is a type of oligarchy.


How does a federal system of government differ from a confederate system?

In a federal system, individual states and the national government share ultimate authority: in some areas the federal government is supreme, while in others the state governments are supreme.

In a confederation, the state governments are considered supreme, except for those powers specifically delegated to the federal government.


delegated powers

Delegated powers are those powers specifically given to the national government.

Examples include the power to "fix the Standard of Weights and Measures," "establish Post Offices and Post Roads," and "regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."

Non-delegated powers are those powers given to other organizations, such as the power to collect tax given to the Internal Revenue Service.


What are the three branches of American government?

  1. Executive Branch: Led by the president, the Executive Branch supports and enforces laws and policies.
  2. Legislative Branch: Led by Congress, the Legislative Branch creates laws and policies.
  3. Judicial Branch: Led by the Supreme Court, the Judicial Branch enforces and evaluates laws and policies.


What Supreme Court case ruled that separating public schools based on race was unconstitutional?

Brown v. Board of Education (1954)


What Supreme Court case ruled that abortion is a right?

Roe v. Wade (1973)


What Supreme Court case was the first in which "judicial review" was implemented, and gave federal courts the right to reject acts of Congress, if these acts were found to violate the Constitution?

Marbury v. Madison (1803)


What type of election is held when candidates from various parties run against one another to determine which candidate(s) will hold a particular office

General election

General elections for the U.S. presidency are held every four years.


What type of election is held within a political party to determine which candidate(s) will run in a general election?

Primary election

Primary elections are held before a general election.


What is the Electoral College and how does it work?

The Electoral College is the organization that determines who will be elected the President and Vice President of the United States.

  • Each state elects people to act as "Electors" on the Electoral College. The number of Electors for each state is equal to its number of representatives in Congress. In addition, the District of Columbia is entitled to 3 Electors.
  • Electors receive the votes from Americans in their state, then select the candidate reflecting the outcome of those votes.


Which five government agencies receive the most government funding, and how much did the United States budget for the year 2014?

  1. Department of Defense ($526.6 billion)
  2. Department of Health and Human Services ($78.3 billion)
  3. Department of Education ($71.2 billion)
  4. Department of Veterans Affairs ($63.5 billion)
  5. Department of Housing and Urban Development ($33.1 billion)

In 2014, the approved federal budget requested $3.03 trillion dollars in revenue and $3.77 trillion dollars in expenditures, for a deficit of $744 billion dollars.


What influence did the Greeks and Romans have on the eventual development of American democracy?

Many Greek city-states and the Roman Republic were seen as models by the founding fathers, especially those societies' use of democratic government and representative democracy.


How does a Bill become a Law?

  1. The bill must be proposed by a member of Congress.
  2. A committee reviews the bill and either does away with it or reviews it further. Review is followed by a committee vote. If the vote is in favor of the bill, it returns to Congress.
  3. The House of Representatives debates the bill. If the bill is not defeated during the debate, it moves to a vote. If this vote is positive, it moves on to the Senate.
  4. The Senate debates the bill. If the bill is not defeated during the debate, it moves to a vote. If this vote is positive, it moves on to the President.
  5. The bill is then either signed by the President and passed, vetoed and rejected, or nothing is done (which results in the bill passing after 10 days - only if Congress is in session).

Also worth checking out: "I'm just a bill . . . "


Where does the government get the majority of its tax revenue?

Tax revenue is the income collected by the government from various forms of taxation. The majority of the nation's tax revenue comes from income tax (47%) and payroll tax (34%).

* Based on 2013 statistics.


Which organization advocates to protect citizens' Constitutional rights?

American Civil Liberties Union


Which American interest group, founded in 1909, works to promote equal rights for all people regardless of race?

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


Which American organization was founded in 1871 and defends the Second Amendment: "the right to keep and bear arms?"

National Rifle Association


What are the two major American political parties and their major platforms?

Democrats and Republicans

Democrats generally:

  • support universal health care,
  • support tax cuts for low and middle class, but support tax increases for the rich,
  • support social services such as welfare and unemployment,
  • take a liberal standpoint on marriage and a woman's right to choose (support gay marriage and a woman's right to choose),
  • support stronger gun control legislation,
  • oppose oil drilling and promote renewable energy sources.

Republicans generally:

  • oppose universal health care,
  • support tax cuts for all,
  • believe less funding should be given to social causes such as welfare and unemployment,
  • take a conservative standpoint on marriage and a woman's right to choose (believe marriage should be between a man and a woman; favor restrictions against abortion),
  • oppose stronger gun legislation,
  • support oil drilling.

PLEASE NOTE: The above were good-faith, but still inadequate summaries of some of the major views of these 2 political parties.  You may click to read the Democrat's and Republican's more offical words.


How many individuals make up the United States House of Representatives?

435 individuals (number based on population by state)


How many individuals make up the United States Senate?

100 individuals (2 per state)


How many individuals make up the United States Supreme Court?

Nine (including the Chief Justice)


How long is a United States congressional term?

Two years

There is no limit to the number of terms that a member of Congress can serve.


How long is a United States presidential term?

Four years

The president may only carry out 2 four-year terms.


How long is a United States senatorial term?

Six years

There is no limit to the number of terms that a Senator can serve.