Law & Constitution – US Government

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Law & Constitution – US Government

This chapter covers law and constitution of US government.

advice and consent

Terms in the Constitution describing the U.S. Senate’s power to review and approve treaties and presidential appointments.


people who opposed the Constitution

Articles of Confederation

A weak constitution that governed America during the Revolutionary War. The first constitution of the US.


A legislature consisting of two parts, or houses

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the Constitution

Checks and Balances

A system that allows each branch of government to limit the powers of the other branches in order to prevent abuse of power

Declaration of Independence

the document recording the proclamation of the second Continental Congress (4 July 1776) asserting the independence of the colonies from Great Britain

Electoral College

a body of people representing the states of the US, who formally cast votes for the election of the president and vice president.

elite democracy

a theory of democracy that limits the citizens’ role to choosing among competing leaders

enumerated powers

Powers specifically given to Congress in the Constitution; including the power to collect taxes, coin money, regulate foreign and interstate commerce, and declare war.


A legal process whereby a state surrenders a person charged with a crime to the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.

Federalist Papers

A collection of 85 articles written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the name “Publius” to defend the Constitution in detail.


a form of government in which power is divided between the federal, or national, government and the states


Supporters of the U.S. Constitution

Full Faith and Credit Clause

Section of Article IV of the Constitution that ensures judicial decrees and contracts made in one state will be binding and enforceable in any other state.

Grand Committee

A group chosen to settle disputes between power in states. Led by Benjamin Franklin

Great Compromise

Compromise made by Constitutional Convention in which states would have equal representation in one house of the legislature and representation based on population in the other house

House of Representatives

the lower house of Congress, consisting of a different number of representatives from each state, depending on population. 435 members.


A formal document charging a public official with misconduct in office

James Madison

“Father of the Constitution,” Federalist leader, and fourth President of the United States.

judical review

the power of the Supreme Court to declare laws and actions of local, state, or national governments unconstitutional

National Supremacy

the point of view that the national government should have relatively more power than the states.
Constitutional doctrine that whenever conflict occurs between the constitutionally authorized actions of the national government and those of a state or local government, the actions of the federal government will prevail.

National Law

Law that pertains to a particular nation (as opposed to international law).

Necessary and Proper Clause

constitutional authorization for Congress to make any law required to carry out its powers

New Jersey Plan

A constitutional proposal that would have given each state one vote in a new congress

participatory democracy

a system of government where rank-and-file citizens rule themselves rather than electing representatives to govern on their behalf.
a theory of democracy that holds that citizens should actively and directly control all aspects of their lives

pocket veto

president’s power to kill a bill, if Congress is not in session, by not signing it for 10 days

Popular Sovereignty

Rule by the people


Introduction to the Constitution

Representative republic

A system of government in which citizens elect representatives, or leaders, to make decisions based on the law and/or constitution.


A philosophy of limited government with elected representatives serving at the will of the people. The government is based on consent of the governed.

reserved powers

Powers given to the state government alone


A council of representatives. 2 from each state (100)

Separation of Powers

Constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making law, the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judiciary interpreting the law

Social Contract

A voluntary agreement among individuals to secure their rights and welfare by creating a government and abiding by its rules.

Supremacy Clause

Constitution is the supreme law of the land

three-fifth clause

This allowed slaves to be counted as 3/5 of a person for the purposes of taxation and representation in the congress. It was proposed during the drafting of the U.S. constitution, but negated by the 13th amendment.

Two-thirds override

If the President vetoes a bill, the Congress may override the veto by a two-thirds majority vote in both houses. The bill would then become law, the President’s objections notwithstanding.

USA Patriot Act

law passed due to 9/11 attacks; sought to prevent further terrorist attacks by allowing greater government access to electronic communications and other information; criticized by some as violating civil liberties


a constitutional right to reject a decision or proposal made by a law-making body.

Virgina Plan

A plan that called for 3 branches of government, a judicial, executive and legislature and the legislature based on population. (proposal to create a strong national government)

Americans with Disabilities Act

prohibits discrimination against the disabled

Blocks Grants

a grant from a central government that a local authority can allocate to a wide range of services.

categorical grants

Federal grants that can be used only for specific purposes, or “categories,” of state and local spending. They come with strings attached, such as nondiscrimination provisions.

Clean Air Act

Set emission standards for cars, and limits for release of air pollutants

Commerce Clause

The clause in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1) that gives Congress the power to regulate all business activities that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations.

Compact Theory

The idea advanced by Rousseau, Locke, and Jefferson, that government is created by voluntary agreement among the people involved and that revolution is justified if government breaks the compact by exceeding its authority.

concurrent powers

powers shared by the national and state governments

condition of aid/strings

terms set by the national government that states must meet if they are to receive certain federal funds

Cooperative federalism

A system of government in which powers and policy assignments are shared between states and the national government. They may also share costs, administration, and even blame for programs that work poorly.

delegated powers

Constitutional powers granted solely to the federal government.


the transfer of powers and responsibilities from the federal government to the states

Dual Federalism

The belief that having separate and equally powerful levels of government is the best arrangement.

Federal Income Tax

the taxes that the federal government imposes on personal income in order to provide services

Fiscal Federalism

The pattern of spending, taxing, and providing grants in the federal system; it is the cornerstone of the national government’s relations with state and local governments.


money given by the national government to the states

implied powers

Powers not specifically mentioned in the constitution


A nation governed by another nation on behalf of the League of Nations

Marble Cake Federalism

the theory that all levels of government can work together to solve common problems. Also know as cooperative federalism.

McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

the Supreme Court upheld the power of the national government and denied the right of a state to tax the federal bank using the Constitution’s supremacy clause. The Court’s broad interpretation of the necessary and proper clause paved the way for later rulings upholding expansive federal powers

New Federalism

system in which the national government restores greater authority back to the states

No Child Left Behind Act (2002)

Federal law enacted in January 2002 that introduced new accountability measures for elementary and secondary schools in all states that wish to receive federal grants in aid. Features federal mandates, cross-cutting requirements, and grants in aid.


A state’s refusal to recognize an act of Congress that it considers unconstitutional

Police powers

state power to effect laws promoting health, safety, and morals

privileges and immensities clause

prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner.

revenue sharing

the distribution of a portion of federal tax revenues to state and local governments.

selective exclusiveness

held that states could regulate aspects of interstate commerce in the absence of federal laws

strict constructionist

a person who interprets the Constitution in a way that allows the federal government to take only those actions the Constitution specifically says it can take

Tenth Amendment

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Unitary Government

A way of organizing a nation so that all power resides in the central government.

United States v. Lopez (1995)

Commerce clause of Constitution does not give Congress the power to regulate guns near state-operated schools

Whiskey Rebellion

1794 protest against the government’s tax on whiskey by back country farmers

pluralist democracy

a theory of democracy that holds that citizen membership in groups is the key to political power