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The United States is an indirect democracy – that is, the people rule through representatives they elect.

The United States has a federalist system. This means that there are individual states, each with its own government, and there is a federal, or national, government. The Constitution gives certain powers to the federal government, others to the state governments, and yet other powers to both.

Within the national government, power is divided among three branches: the legislative, executive and judicial branches.

The legislative branch consists of Congress, which has two parts – the House of Representatives and the Senate. Congress’s main function is to make laws. There are 100 senators (two from each state) and 435 representatives (the number from each state depends on the size of the state’s population).

The President is the head of the executive branch and the country. The executive branch administers the law. In addition to the President, the Vice-President, and their staffs, the executive branch consists of departments and agencies. There are now 14 departments, each with different responsibilities. The President appoints the department heads known as Secretaries, who together make up the President’s Cabinet.

The judicial branch interprets the laws and makes sure that new laws are in keeping with the Constitution. There are several levels of federal courts. The Supreme Court is the most important. It has nine members, who are appointed for life.

(Spotlight on the USA. Randee Falk. Oxford University Press. 1993)


Task 2. Read the list of different functions of the branches of power.

a) Sort out the functions into four categories as belonging to the

Ø head of state

Ø legislative branch

Ø executive branch

Ø judicial branch


1. introduce a bill 8. determines if a law violates the Constitution
2. is an integral part of the legislature 9. elaborates the basic guidelines of the domestic and foreign policy
3. approves laws 10. is the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces
4. implements laws 11. adopts laws
5. watches the laws observe 12. levies taxes
6. gives consent for the appointment of the top officials 13. appoints top officials
7. is the head of the executive branch 14. has the right of veto


b) Go back to the texts 1, 2, 3 and see if you can find any other function to add to the list.



Task 1. You went to a summer language school. You took part on the discussion about the effectiveness of different political structures. Act on behalf of the Belarusian / Britain / American part. Describe the political system of the country you represent.


Task 2. Work in pairs. Compare the state structures of the Republic of Belarus, The UK and the USA according to the following outline:

Ø the type of the statehood;

Ø the head of the state and his / her powers;

Ø the organization and main functions of the main branches of power;

· legislative

· executive

· judicial




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