A Brief Background
The Constitution of the United States divides the federal government into three branches to ensure a central government in which no individual or group gains too much control:
- Legislative – Makes laws (Congress)
- Executive – Carries out laws (President, Vice President, Cabinet)
- Judicial – Evaluates laws (Supreme Court and Other Courts)
Each branch of government can change acts of the other branches as follows:
- The president can veto laws passed by Congress.
- Congress confirms or rejects the president's appointments and can remove the president from office in exceptional circumstances.
- The justices of the Supreme Court, who can overturn unconstitutional laws, are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
The U.S. federal government seeks to act in the best interests of its citizens through this system of checks and balances.
The Legislative Branch of the Federal Government is made up of two branches, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The Senate has 100 Members, two from each state, who are elected to serve for a term of six years. There are three classes of Senators, and a new class is elected every two years, therefore one third of the Senate is up for election every two years.
The House of Representatives has 435 representatives, also called congressmen or congresswomen. There are also additional non-voting delegates who represent the District of Columbia and the territories. The number representing each state is determined by population, but every state is entitled to at least one representative. Members are elected for two year terms, all terms running for the same period.
Both the senators and representatives must be residents of the state from which they are chosen. In addition, a senator must be at least 30 years of age and must have been a citizen of the United States for at least nine years. A representative must be at least 25 years of age and must have been a citizen for at least seven years. There are no term limits on the number of years an individual can serve in either the House or Senate.
Arizona, like all states, has two senators, and based on the last census, currently has nine representatives.
Contact Arizona’s Delegation
Kyrsten Sinema (D)
Mark Kelly (D)
Members of the House of Representatives:
Tom O'Halleran (D – District 1)
Ann Kirkpatrick (D – District 2)
Raúl Grijalva (D – District 3)
Paul Gosar (R – District 4)
Andy Biggs (R – District 5)
David Schweikert (R – District 6)
Ruben Gallego (D – District 7)
Debbie Lesko (R – District 8)
Greg Stanton (D – District 9)
Not sure of your Congressional District or who your Representative is?
Head to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/ to find your Representative.
The executive branch carries out and enforces laws. It includes the president, vice president, the Cabinet, executive departments, independent agencies, and other boards, commissions, and committees.
American citizens have the right to vote for the president and vice president through free, confidential ballots.
Key roles of the executive branch include:
- President - The president leads the country. He/she is the head of state, leader of the federal government, and commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces. The president serves a four-year term and can be elected no more than two times.
- Vice President - The vice president supports the president. If the president is unable to serve, the vice president becomes president. He/she can serve an unlimited number of four-year terms.
- The Cabinet - Cabinet members serve as advisors to the president. They include the vice president and the heads of executive departments. Cabinet members are nominated by the president and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes).
How to Contact the President and Vice President
Online form: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Additional Contact Methods: https://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/write-or-call
The judicial branch interprets the meaning of laws, applies laws to individual cases, and decides if laws violate the Constitution.
The judicial branch is comprised of the Supreme Court and other federal courts.
- Supreme Court - The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. The justices of the Supreme Court are nominated by the president and must be approved by the Senate (with at least 51 votes). Congress decides the number of justices. Currently, there are eight with one vacant seat to be filled. There is no fixed term for justices. They serve until their death, retirement, or removal in exceptional circumstances.
- Other Federal Courts - The Constitution grants Congress the authority to establish other federal courts.
How Federal Laws, Presidential Executive Orders, Federal Laws and
Regulations are Made and How to Research Them
Active Legislation in the U.S. Senate
Active Legislation in the U.S. House
The U.S. Constitution
The U.S. Code
U.S. Electronic Code of Federal Regulations
Federal Register – Find Proposed Rules and Notices
Comment on Federal Regulations
A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies
Find Contact Information for Government Programs, by Topic