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Constitutional Principles and Provisions


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Three key principles central to the Constitution
Separation of powers, checks and balances, and bicameralism.
Separation of powers
The allocation of three domains of governmental action—law making, law execution, and law adjudication—into three distinct branches of government: the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary.
Legislative Branch
House of Representatives and Senate.
Executive Branch
President.
Judicial Branch
Supreme Court.
House of Representatives term
2 years.
Senate term
6 years.
House of Representatives selection
Popular vote.
House of Representatives powers
Initiate revenue legislation; bring articles of impeachment.
Senate selection
Election by state legislatures (as originally established in the Constitution).
Senate powers
Confirm executive appointments; confirm treaties; try impeachments.
Presidential term
4 years.
Presidential selection
Electoral college.
Presidential powers
Commander-in-chief; nominate executive officers and Supreme Court justices; veto; convene both houses of Congress; issue reprieves and pardons.
Supreme Court term
Life.
Supreme Court selection
Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation.
Supreme Court powers
Judicial review.
Article I of the Constitution
Enumerates the powers and responsibilities of the Legislative Branch.
Article II of the Constitution
Enumerates the powers and responsibilities of the Executive Branch.
Article III of the Constitution
Enumerates the powers and responsibilities of the Judicial Branch.
Checks and Balances
Sharing of power between the three branches of the federal government; each branch has ways to respond to, and if necessary, block the actions of the others.
The Twelfth Amendment
Amendment modifying the electoral process for the President and Vice President.
Judicial review
The ability of the Supreme Court to invalidate a law passed by Congress or a decision made by the executive on the basis that it violates the Constitution.
Marbury v. Madison
Supreme Court case (1804) in which the concept of Judicial Review was established.
Article IV of the Constitution
Lists rights and obligations among the states and between the states and the national government.
Article V of the Constitution
Specifies how to amend the Constitution.
Proposing Constitutional Amendments
States may call for a convention, or Congress may propose Amendments by two-thirds majority in both houses.
Ratifying Constitutional Amendments
Ratification by three-fourths of state legislatures, or ratification by three-fourths of state conventions.
Article VI of the Constitution
The Supremacy clause.
The Supremacy Clause
The Constitution and all federal laws are “the supreme Law of the Land.”
Article VII of the Constitution
Outlines how to ratify the new Constitution.
14th Amendment
"No state shall... deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
Voting amendments
Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-Fourth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments
Intermediary Institutions
Institutions—political parties, interest groups, and the media—that link government with the people and bridge gaps caused by a separation-of powers system.
Bicameralism
Splitting the legislature into two separate and distinct chambers—the House of Representatives and the Senate.