American Political System

THE PRESIDENCY
Although the 'founding fathers' wanted to avoid a political system that in any way reflected the monarchical system then prevalent in Britain and for a long time the Presidency was relatively weak, the vast expansion of the federal bureaucracy and the military in the 20th century has in current practice given a greater role and more power to the President than is the case for any single individual in most political systems.
The President is both the head of state and the head of government, as well as the military commander-in-chief and chief diplomat. He presides over the executive branch of the federal government, a vast organisation numbering about 4 million people, including 1 million active-duty military personnel. Within the executive branch, the President has broad constitutional powers to manage national affairs and the workings of the federal government and he may issue executive orders to affect internal policies.
The President may sign or veto legislation passed by Congress and has the power to recommend measures to Congress. The Congress may override a presidential veto but only by a two-thirds majority in each house.
The President has the power to make treaties (with the 'advice and consent' of the Senate) and the power to nominate and receive ambassadors. The President may not dissolve Congress or call special elections, but does have the power to pardon criminals convicted of offences against the federal government, enact executive orders, and (with the consent of the Senate) appoint Supreme Court justices and federal judges.
The President is elected for a fixed term of four years and may serve a maximum of two terms. Elections are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November to coincide with Congressional elections.
The President is not elected directly by the voters but by an Electoral College representing each state on the basis of a combination of the number of members in the Senate (two for each state regardless of size) and the number of members in the House of Representatives (roughly proportional to population). The states with the largest number of votes are California (55), Texas (34) and New York (31). The states with the smallest number of votes - there are six of them - have only three votes. The District of Columbia, which has no voting representation in Congress, has three electoral votes. In effect, therefore, the Presidential election is not one election but 51.
The total Electoral College vote is 538. This means that, to become President, a candidate has to win at least 270 electoral votes. The voting system awards the Electoral College votes from each state to delegates committed to vote for a certain candidate in a "winner take all" system, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska (which award their Electoral College votes according to Congressional Districts rather than for the state as a whole). In practice, most states are firmly Democrat - for instance, California and New York - or firmly Republican - for instance, Texas and Tennessee. Therefore, candidates concentrate their appearances and resources on the so-called "battleground states", those that might go to either party. The three largest battleground or swing states are Florida (27 votes), Pennsylvania (21) and Ohio (20).
This system of election means that in theory a candidate can win the largest number of votes nationwide but fail to win the largest number of votes in the Electoral College and therefore fail to become President. Indeed, in practice, this has happened three times in US history, most recently in 2000. If this seems strange (at least to non-Americans), the explanation is that the 'founding fathers' who drafted the American Constitution did not wish to give too much power to the people and so devised a system that gives the ultimate power of electing the President to members of the Electoral College. The same Constitution, however, enables each state to determine how its members in the Electoral College are chosen and since the 1820s states have chosen their electors by a direct vote of the people. The United States is the only current example of an indirectly elected executive president.
The President may be impeached by a majority in the House and removed from office by a two-thirds majority in the Senate for "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors".
Since 1939, there has been an Executive Office of the President (EOP) which has consistently and considerably expanded in size and power. Today it consists of some 1,600 staff and costs some $300M a year.
The position of Vice-President is elected on the same ticket as that of the President and has the same four-year term of office. The Vice-President is often described as ' a heart beat away from the Presidency' since, in the event of the death or incapacity of the President , the Vice-President assumes the office. In practice, however, a Vice-Presidential candidate is chosen (by the Presidential candidate) to 'balance the ticket' in the Presidential election (that is, represent a different geographical or gender or ethnic constituency) and, for all practical purposes, the position only carries the power accorded to it by the President - which is usually very little (a major exception has been Dick Cheney under George W Bush). The official duties of the Vice-President are to sit as a member of the "Cabinet" and as a member of the National Security Council and to act as ex-officio President of the Senate.
Although the President heads the executive branch of government, the day-to-day enforcement and administration of federal laws is in the hands of the various federal executive departments, created by Congress to deal with specific areas of national and international affairs. The heads of the 15 departments, chosen by the President and approved with the 'advice and consent' of the Senate, form a council of advisors generally known as the President's "Cabinet". This is not a cabinet in the British political sense: it does not meet so often and does not act so collectively.
The first US President was George Washington, who served from 1789-1797, so that the current President Barack Obama is the 44th to hold the office.
The Presidency is often referred to by the media as the White House, the West Wing, and the Oval Office.

Links:
White House click here
current members of the cabinet click here

THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
The House of Representatives is the lower chamber in the bicameral legislature known collectively as Congress. The founders of the United States intended the House to be the politically dominant entity in the federal system and, in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the House served as the primary forum for political debate. However, subsequently the Senate has been the dominant body.
The House consists of 435 members, each of whom represents a congressional district and serves for a two-year term. House seats are apportioned among the states by population according to each decennial census. Typically a House constituency would represent around 500,000 people.
Members of the House are elected by first-past-the-post voting in every state except Louisiana and Washington, which have run-offs. Elections are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years. Voting in congressional elections - especially to the House - is generally much lower than levels in other liberal democracies. In a year when there is a Presidential election, turnout is typically around 50%; in years when there is no Presidential election (known as mid-terms), it usually falls to around one third of the electorate.
In the event that a member of the House of Representatives dies or resigns before the end of the two-year term, a special election is held to fill the vacancy.
The House has four non-voting delegates from American Samoa (1981), the District of Columbia (1971), Guam (1972) and the Virgin Islands (1976) and one resident commissioner for Puerto Rico (1976), bringing the total formal membership to 440.
Much of the work of the House is done through 19 standing committees which perform both legislative and investigatory functions.
Each chamber of Congress has particular exclusive powers. The House must introduce any bills for the purpose of raising revenue. However, the consent of both chambers is required to make any law.
Activity in the House of Representatives tends to be more partisan than in the Senate.
The House and Senate are often referred to by the media as Capitol Hill or simply the Hill.
Link: House of Representatives click here

THE SENATE
The Senate is the upper chamber in the bicameral legislature known collectively as Congress. The original intention of the authors of the US Constitution was that the Senate should be a regulatory group, less politically dominant than the House. However, since the mid 19th century, the Senate has been the dominant chamber and indeed today it is perhaps the most powerful upper house of any legislative body in the world.
The Senate consists of 100 members, each of which represents a state and serves for a six-year term (one third of the Senate stands for election every two years).
Each state has two Senators, regardless of population, and, since there are 50 states, then there are 100 senators. This equality of Senate seats between states has the effect of producing huge variations in constituency population (the two senators from Wyoming represent less than half a million electors, while the two senators from California represent 34M people) with gross over-representation of the smaller states and serious under-representation of racial and ethnic minorities.
Members of the Senate are elected by first-past-the-post voting in every state except Louisiana and Washington, which have run-offs. Elections are always held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November in even numbered years.
In the event that a member of the Senate dies or resigns before the end of the six-year term, no special election is held to fill the vacancy. Instead the Governor of the state that the Senator represented nominates someone to serve until the next set of Congressional elections when a normal election is held to fill the vacancy.
Much of the work of the Senate is done through 16 standing committees which perform both legislative and investigatory functions.
Each chamber of Congress has particular exclusive powers. The Senate must give 'advice and consent' to many important Presidential appointments. However, the consent of both chambers is required to make any law.
Activity in the Senate tends to be less partisan and more individualistic than in the House of Representatives. Senate rules permit what is called a filibuster when a senator, or a series of senators, can speak for as long as they wish and on any topic they choose, unless a supermajority of three-fifths of the Senate (60 Senators, if all 100 seats are filled) brings debate to a close by invoking what is called cloture (taken from the French term for closure).
The Senate and House are often referred to by the media as Capitol Hill or simply the Hill.
Link: Senate click here

Reff. http://www.rogerdarlington.me.uk/Americanpoliticalsystem.html