A4. The Structure of the Federal Government


  Summary of contents in textbook

    In the text book, this section deals with the structure of the Federal Government which has three branches including the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. The former two branches will be introduced while judicial branch will be introduced in Chapter 15.
    The executive branch proposes bills for Congress and carries out laws and policies adopted by Congress. The president is the chief executive of the nation’s largest bureaucracy that falls into five major groups including Executive Office, Executive Departments, Independent Executive Agencies, Independent Regulatory Commissions and Government Corporations.
    The legislative branch discusses about Congress that has the power to make laws and appropriates money. Members of Congress are responsible for their constituencies. Due to thousands of bills are introduced every year in Congress, Committees in Each House and Committees of Both Houses are established to help studying the bills.



The Structure of Federal Government

                                         The Structure of Federal Government

check and balanceCheck and Balance

The Congress

  The Congress


  The Supreme Court


The 45th president Donald Trump

  Supplementary readings

Event 1    The American Flag


Texas v. Johnson

    In 1984, Johnson burned an American Flag to protest the policies of President Reagan. No one was threatened or injured while many people said they were offended by the flag burning. Johnson was later arrested and charged with violating a Texas statute that prevented the desecration of the American Flag.

    He appealed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, arguing that his actions were “symbolic speech” protected by the First Amendment. And the court pardoned him, considering his act as “expressive conduct” which belongs to freedom of speech.

The case continued to be a heated debate. In 1989, the Federal Supreme Court discussed it and sentenced that Johnson was innocent. The reason is, first, Johnson’s burning of flag was an expressive conduct, permitting him to invoke the First Amendment. Second, his action didn’t destroy the “breach of the peace” or pose an imminent threat of lawless action at all times. Texas may not proscribe particular conduct because it has expressive elements. Justice Kennedy wrote a famous saying on this case that “It is poignant but fundamental that the flag protects those who hold it in contempt”.

US v. Eichman

United States v. Eichman

    In response to Texas v. Johnson, the 101st Congress passed the Flag Protection Act of 1989, making it a federal crime to desecrate the flag.
    Protests were staged around the nation. Many people burned national flags at demonstration. Later, the Supreme Court judged the Act illegal because the Government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.


The two cases reflected the balance of power between the Supreme Court and federal government as well as the unshakable high status of the freedom of speech.


Event 2 The  Federal Government Shutdown

“The Federal government cannot spend money unless Congress has appropriated it.” —-Textbook  


    The U.S. government partially shut down for the first time in 17 years on Tuesday as a standoff between President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans over healthcare reforms closed many government offices, museums and national parks and slowed everything from trade negotiations to medical research.


    The US government has begun a partial shutdown after the two houses of Congress failed to agree a new budget.The Republican-led House of Representatives insisted on delaying President Barack Obama’s healthcare reform – dubbed Obamacare – as a condition for passing a bill.

    More than 700,000 federal employees face unpaid leave with no guarantee of back pay once the deadlock is over.It is the first shutdown in 17 years and the dollar fell early on Tuesday.Goldman Sachs estimates a three-week shutdown could shave as much as 0.9% from US GDP this quarter.

    On Tuesday, Mr Obama blamed the House of Representatives for the stalemate and said he would “keep working to get Congress to reopen the government [and] restart vital services”.“This shutdown was completely preventable. It should not have happened,” he wrote in a letter to federal government employees.

    “And the House of Representatives can end it as soon as it follows the Senate’s lead, and funds your work in the United States Government without trying to attach highly controversial and partisan measures in the process.”

    On Monday, House Speaker John Boehner told reporters he hoped the Senate would agree to a committee between the two chambers known as a conference “so we can resolve this for the American people”.

    “The House has voted to keep the government open but we also want basic fairness for all Americans under Obamacare,” he said.But on Tuesday morning, the Senate voted 54-46 to reject the request for formal negotiations to end the impasse.

National parks, museums, federal buildings and government services have been shut down indefinitely

Some 700,000 federal workers have been sent home on unpaid leave

    On Oct. 16, 2013, The House voted to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling late Wednesday night. The final tally was 285-144. All 198 Democrats voting were in favor, but most Republicans voted against it, by a margin of 144-87.

  Useful website

Event 1 Further Reading

  1. Texas v. Johnson
  2. US v. Eichman

Event 2 Further Reading

  1. US government shutdown: the key figures
  2. US government shutdown: key definitions
  3. 10 things affected by the US government shutdown
  4. US government shutdown to end after Congress passes debt ceiling deal
  5. Every previous government shutdown, why they happened and how they ended
  6. Can Ryan and Obama reopen the government; beat debt limit deadline?(2013 oct 11)