Constitution Study Guide
Test scheduled for February or Early March
This is a study guide for the Constitution Test. Before using this study guide, you should first glance at the U.S. Constitution (begins on p. 219-241) and read Chapter 8 (begins on p. 203) in your textbook. Chapter 8 discusses the Constitution and structure of our government. This chapter will explain many of the things that are in this study guide. The Illinois Constitution will be covered upon completion of the U.S Constitution. If you have any questions at any time, feel free to ask. There are practice tests on line!
• The U.S. has a representative democracy, which consists of representatives elected by the citizens.
• Government is the power or authority that rules a country.
• Laws are rules of conduct that citizens must follow. The most important job of the government is to provide laws.
Our nation consists of people from a variety of backgrounds, ethnicities, and races. The phrase “E Pluribus Unum” means “out of many, one"
• There are two different ways to become a U.S. citizen:
1) birth- someone is born in the U.S. or on American soil
2) naturalization- someone that goes through the five year process to become a naturalized citizen
• The U.S. has one of the oldest forms of democracy in the world.
• A census is taken every 10 years… 2020, 2030, 2040 … years ending with a 0.
• Popular sovereignty (a self-governing land) is the idea that people should have the right to rule themselves
• Only Congress has the power to declare war, but the President can order troops to go places and commands the armed forces, Commander in Chief.
• Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence. It was approved on July 4, 1776.
• The Articles of Confederation was our first Constitution. Think of it as a first draft. It was considered too weak to properly outline the rules of the new country (Did not allow for taxation)
• James Madison wrote the constitution. He is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”
The different levels of government (from highest to lowest) are:
1) National or Federal (located in Washington D.C.)
2) State (located in Springfield, Illinois)
3) County (we live in Cook County)
4) City/village (Chicago Ridge)
5) School (Finley Jr High)
• The Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia in 1787, was originally called to revise the Articles of Confederation. George Washington was chosen to preside over the Constitutional Convention. When it became clear that the Articles had too many weaknesses to be revised, the delegates decided to write a new constitution for the country. The Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787 and ratified in ratified it on June 21, 1788.
The three parts to the Constitution are:
1) Preamble (Introduction) 2) 7 Articles 3) 27 Amendments (changes)
Article I- Explains the Powers of the Legislative Branch of Government (Congress)
Article II- Explains the Powers of the Executive Branch of Government (President and Vice President)
Article III- Explains the Powers of the Judicial Branch of Government (Supreme, Appellate, District courts)
Article IV- Explains how the States are to work together (unity)
Article V- Explains how the Constitution can be Amended
Article VI- Explains that the Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land
Article VI- Explains how the Constitution was Ratified
• The first ten amendments to the Constitution are called the Bill of Rights.
The three branches of government are:
1) Legislative-Congress=House of Representatives and the Senate (makes the laws)
2) Executive-President and Vice President (carries out the laws)
3) Judicial- Supreme, Appellate, District(interprets the laws; makes sure the laws are fair and just)
The Legislative Branch
• The legislative branch (Congress) has two houses. Congress makes the laws. The houses are called the House of Representatives and the Senate. Only Congress can Declare War.
• There are 435 members in the U.S. House of Representatives. Each state is allowed a certain amount of representatives based on its population. The Constitution guarantees that each state will have at least ONE representative. Illinois has 18 representatives.
• The census, or a count of the people, happens every ten years. The census determines how many representatives a state will have.
House of Representatives (435 members):
The requirements to be a member of the U.S. House of Representatives are:
1) 25 years old
2) a U.S. citizen for 7 years
3) a resident of the state in which elected
• U.S. Representatives serve 2 year terms and there is no limit on the number of terms they can serve.
• The leader of the House of Representatives is called the Speaker of the House. The Speaker is currently Paul Ryan
• There are 19 Congressional districts in Illinois, we live in the 3rd , and our U.S. Representative is Dan Lipinski
The powers of the House of Reps. are:
1) start impeachment process
2) start appropriations bills (how tax dollars are spent)
3) select the President if no candidate has a majority in the electoral college
Senate (100 members):
• There are 100 members in the Senate. Each state sends two individuals to the U.S. Senate.
• U.S. Senators serve 6 year terms and there is no limit on the number of terms they can serve.
• The requirements to be a member of the U.S. Senate are:
1) 30 years old
2) U.S. citizen for 9 years
3) Resident of the state in which elected
• The official leader of the Senate is the Vice-President. The Vice-President only casts a vote in the Senate if there is a tie. The day-to-day leader of the Senate is called the President Pro Tempore. The President Pro Tempore is currently Orrin Hatch.
• Our two senators from Illinois are Dick Durbin and Tammy Duckworth
The powers of the Senate are:
1) Serves as the jury in the impeachment trial
2) Approve presidential treaties
3) Approves presidential appointments (who the president appoints to the Cabinet, Supreme Court, etc.)
4) Selects the Vice-President if no candidate has a majority in the Electoral College
The Executive Branch
• The president is chosen by the Electoral College (538 people selected by each party). The president is NOT chosen by the Popular Vote
• The President is the chief executive & Commander in Chief. The executive branch carries out laws.
• The requirements to be President are:
1) 35 years old
2) Born in the U.S.
3) a resident of the U.S. for 14 years
• The President serves a term of 4 years and can serve no more than 2 terms (10 years possible).
The president can do three things with a bill (Legislation before it becomes a Law):
1) sign 2) veto 3) pocket veto
• Congress can override a presidential veto with a 2/3 vote in both houses. (290 in the House of Representatives and 67 in the Senate (This is called a Super Majority)
If something happens to the President, there is an order of succession stated in the Constitution. The order of succession is as follows (XXV Amendment):
1) President- Donald Trump
2) Vice-President- Mike Pence
3) Speaker of the House- Paul Ryan
4) President Pro Tempore- Orrin Hatch
5) Secretary of State- To be determined
• The President has the power to grant pardons (forgive one of a crime/no punishment), reprieves (an order to delay a person’s punishment), or amnesty (similar to a pardon, but applies to a group of people rather than an individual).
• The President can make a treaty with another country, but the Senate must approve it.
• The President can make executive orders- an order from the President having the force of a law created in Congress.
• The President may appoint people to his Cabinet (a group of department heads,
Vice-President, and other officials). The Senate must approve these nominations. The role of the Cabinet is to advise the President.
• The Cabinet is not mentioned anywhere in the Constitution. Washington decided to have a Cabinet during his presidency.
• There are currently 15 executive departments (Department of State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health & Human Services, Housing & Urban Development, Transportation, Energy, Education, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security). Know there are 15.
• All of the department heads are called secretary. For example, the head of the Department of Defense is called the “Secretary of Defense.” The current Secretary of Defense is Rex Tillerson. The exception to this is the Department of Justice. The head of the Department of Justice is called the Attorney General. The current Attorney General is Jeff Sessions.
• The National Security Council aids the President in life and death decisions about US safety.
The Judicial Branch
• The job of the judicial branch is to interpret laws.
The three levels of federal courts (from highest to lowest) are:
2) Appellate or court of appeals (apply to a higher court for a reversal of the decision of a lower court.)
3) District (circuit) Local
• Most of the work of federal courts takes place in the district courts. District
Courts are the only federal courts that have jury trials.
• There is no appeal once a case reaches the Supreme Court!
• The two types of court cases are:
1) Criminal (Amendment VI-cases in which juries decide whether people have committed crimes)
2) Civil (Amendment VII-cases in which two sides disagree over an issue; usually for money, property, injuries, or damages)
• U.S. Supreme Court justices are appointed by the President, approved by the Senate, and serve for life.
• There are a total of nine U.S. Supreme Court justices (1 Chief Justice and 8 Associate Justices).
In the Constitution, there are no requirements to be on the U.S. Supreme Court.
• The Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court is John Roberts.
• The first female U.S. Supreme Court Justice was Sandra Day O’Connor and Thurgood Marshall was first African American Supreme Court Justice.
• Judicial Review is the power to review any law to see if it agrees with the Constitution
• A subpoena is a court order, which requires someone to appear in court.
• A Marshal is the individual who is responsible for arresting suspects, delivering defendants to court, and serving subpoenas.
• A Magistrate is the individual who is responsible for issuing court orders and determining whether there is enough evidence to bring a case to trial. (Grand Jury)
How a Bill becomes a Law
1. A bill may be introduced in either the Senate or House of Representatives by a member.
2. It is referred to a committee for a hearing. The committee studies the bill and may hold public hearings on it. It can then pass, be rejected or no action taken on the bill (The Bill dies).
3. The committee report on the passed bill is read in open session of the House or Senate, and the bill is then referred to the Rules Committee.
4. The Rules Committee can either place the bill on the second reading of the calendar for debate before the entire body, or take no action.
5. At the second reading, a bill is subject to debate and amendment before being placed on the third reading calendar for final passage.
6. After passing one house, the bill goes through the same procedure in the other house.
7. When the bill is accepted in both houses, it is signed by the respective leaders and sent to the president. The president signs the bill into law or may veto all or part of it. If Congress is in session and the president fails to sign the bill, it becomes law without his signature. If Congress is not in session, it is a pocket veto.
8. All tax bills for raising revenue (money) shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with amendments as on other bills.
9. The President can make executive orders- an order from the President having the force of a law created in Congress.
When the bill is sent to the President, he can do three things with it:
1. Sign (approve it) 2. Veto (reject it) 3. Pocket Veto (Wait)
Congress can override (defeat) a presidential veto with a 2/3 vote in both houses.
Both the House of Representatives and the Senate debate (Discuss) on their versions of the bill. Senators sometimes engage in a delay tactic known as filibuster. One or more senators may kill a bill by talking until the bill's sponsor withdraws it. The only way to prevent a filibuster is to take a vote on whether or not to have cloture. Cloture limits a senator to one hour of debate.
After a bill has been debated in the House of Reps. or the Senate, it is brought to a vote. There are three ways to vote: 1. Voice Vote 2. Standing vote 3. Roll-call vote
Amendments to the US Constitution
Bill of Rights (Amendments 1-10) and Amendments 11-27
Amendment I Religion, Assembly, Press, Petition, Speech (1791) R.A.P.P.S.
Amendment II Right to Bear Arms (1791)
Amendment III No Quartering of Troops (1791)
Amendment IV Illegal Search and Seizure (1791)
Amendment V Grand Jury, No Double Jeopardy, Self-Incrimination, Due Process (1791)
Amendment VI Criminal Prosecutions - Jury Trial, Right to Confront your accuser and to an Attorney (1791)
Amendment VII Guarantees the right to a jury trial in Civil cases - Jury Trial (1791)
Amendment VIII NO Excess Bail or Fines, Cruel and Unusual Punishment (1791)
Amendment IX Guarantees individual rights-unwritten rights cannot be taken away
Non-Enumerated Rights (1791)
Amendment X Any right not given to the national government is a state right
Rights Reserved to States (1791)
Amendment XI Suits against a State (1795)
Amendment XII Revised the way the President and Vice President are election (1804)
Amendment XIII Abolition of Slavery (1865)
Amendment XIV Privileges and Immunities, Due Process, Equal Protection, Apportionment of
Representatives, Civil War Disqualification and Debt (1868)
Amendment XV Rights Not to Be Denied Based on Race (1870)
Amendment XVI Income Tax (1913)
Amendment XVII Direct Election of Senators (1913)
Amendment XVIII Prohibition of Alcohol (1919)
Amendment XIX Women's Right to Vote (1920)
Amendment XX Presidential Term and Succession (1933)
Amendment XXI Repeal of Prohibition (1933)
Amendment XXII Two Term Limit on President (1951)
Amendment XXIII Presidential Vote in D.C. (1961)
Amendment XXIV No Poll Tax (1964)
Amendment XXV Presidential Succession (1967)
Amendment XXVI Right to Vote at Age 18 (1971)
Amendment XXVII Delays Congressional pay raises until next term (1992)
United States Flag
• The U.S. flag first originated during the American Revolution.
• The blue field on the flag is called the union.
• There are seven red stripes and six white stripes on the flag. These stripes represent the original 13 colonies.
• The flag has 50 stars which represent the states.
• The two proper ways to destroy the flag are to burn or bury it.
1. checks and balances- a system where each branch can limit the power of another branch
2. census- a count of the people
3. veto- to reject
4. representative democracy- a democracy in which citizens elect others to govern
5. quota- a numerical limit
6. national government- highest level of government in the US
7. treaty- a formal agreement with another country
8. laws- rules of conduct
9. appropriation- money
10. pardon- presidential order to free someone from punishment
11. slander- saying something false about someone to harm their reputation
12. treason- giving military secrets to enemies