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Study Notes

Checks and Balances

A Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR

Checks and Balances can be defined as the abilities and powers that are exclusively given to one branch of government in order to ‘check’ the actions of the other branches. These powers are often constitutionally enshrined.

Checks and Balances are often given in the form of powers that are reserved exclusively to that branch.

It is essential that you understand what checks and balances exist between the branches of government, and examples of when they have been carried out. The diagram below shows the core checks and balances that exist.

Checks from the Congress

  • Passes Laws
  • Power of the Purse
  • Declarations of War
  • Congressional Hearings & Investigations
  • Executive Appointment Hearings ‘advice and consent powers’
  • Power of Impeachment
  • Veto Override

Checks from the Executive

  • Presidential Veto
  • Commands armed forces in military action
  • Use of Executive Orders
  • Executive appointments such as Judges

Checks by the Supreme Court

  • Rules whether laws are unconstitutional
  • Determines whether executive actions are unconstitutional

Checks and balances were introduced in order to prevent a government from becoming too tyrannical, this was the paramount fear of the Founding Fathers after their experiences of British rule.

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