U.S. Civics - Crash Course

US Civics- Crash Course

The Principles of American Democracy

            •           Self-Government- “We the People”- our country is a constitutionally limited representative democratic republic.

            •           All must adhere to the Constitution.  The People, vote for those to represent them in government.


            •           1st Amendment- Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, Freedom of Religion, Right to Assemble, Right to Petition the Government

            •           1st -10thAmendments of the Constitution are the Bill of Rights

The Rule of Law- John Adams wrote, our country is a “government of laws and not of men.”

            •           Everyone must follow the law

            •           Leaders must obey the law

            •           Government must obey the law

            •           No one is above the law

System of Government

1. What stops one branch of government form becoming too powerful?

                        a. Three Branches of Government   b. Checks and Balances

A. The Three Branches:

Legislative Branch:  The House of Representatives and Senate- Make the Laws

Executive Branch:  The President, Vice President and the Presidential Cabinet- Enforces the Laws

Judicial Branch- The Court System (Supreme Court)- Reviews the Laws and decides if    Laws are Unconstitutional

B. Checks and Balances:

The “action” of checking, balances the power amongst the three branches so that one branch is not too powerful.

C. Federalism:  States and provinces share power with the national (or Federal) government.

Federal, State, Local Governments:

How to get involved on the local level?

Contact your local Representative.  Bills start in the House of Representatives.  Representative must hear YOUR CONCERNS in order to draft a bill and seek sponsors.   Representatives depend on their constituents to generate ideas for potential Bills.

How does a Bill become a Law?

Creating laws is the U.S. Representatives’ most important jobs.  All laws start as Bills.  All Bills must be approved by the House of Representatives, the Senate and the President before they can become a US Law.

The Bill Begins

            •           Laws begin as ideas.  Citizens who have ideas for laws may contact their local Representatives to discuss their ideas. If the Representative agrees, he or she will draft a Bill.

The Bill is Proposed

            •           The Bill needs sponsors in order for it to be introduced.  The Representative will talk to other representatives to gather support.  Once support is gathered for the Bill it is introduced to the House of Representatives.

The Bill is Introduced

            •           A Bill is placed “in a hopper.” The Bill clerk will assign the Bill a number (ie. H.R. 123).

The Bill Goes to Committee

            •           Representatives who are experts on the topic of the Bill (agriculture, health, education) will review, research and revise before voting on sending the Bill to the House floor. If the Bill needs further review it will be send to a Subcommittee. 

The Bill is Reported and Debated

            •           When the committee has approved the Bill it is sent or reported to the House floor and debated by the House of Representatives.  Changes may be made in order to pass the Bill to the Senate.

The Bill is Voted On

            •           Viva Voce (Voice vote)

            •           Division (Representatives stand to be counted in approval, or to oppose).

            •           Recorded- electronic voting system.

Majority approve- Bill goes to Senate

The Bill is Referred to Senate

            •           When a Bill reaches the Senate, it goes through the same steps as it did in the House.

Majority approve- Bill goes to the President

The Bill is Sent to the President

            •           Sign and pass the Bill- the Bill becomes a Law

            •           Refuse to sign or veto- Bill is sent back to the House along with the President’s reasons. IF the HOUSE AND SENATE both agree that it should be a law, 2/3 of the vote of both the House and Senate can override the President’s veto.

            •           Do Nothing method- if the Bill is ignored for more than 10 days, it automatically becomes a Law.

Bill is a Law- it is now enforced by the government (Federal, State, Local).