tv Reel America Meet Your Federal Government - 1946 CSPAN June 25, 2022 7:44pm-8:01pm EDT
special review session the way they asked so many questions. the gang couldn't wait to get the inside dope on my trip. they wanted to know where i'd been in washington. what did i see? what did i hear? so i told them just what happens when mr. miller goes to washington. he is the stories i told to them. uncle jim met me at the union station is like i got off my train when i told him that my civics class wanted me to make a report he walked my legs off showing me how the federal government works we started out right at the plaza in of the station. the first thing he showed me from the station was capitol hill the seat of our federal government. federal agencies are scattered all over the united states, but washington is a center of all national government activity. uncle jim thought we'd better start with a library of congress it's the biggest and most important library in american set up originally for senators
and representatives, but open to all the people. here are most of the important documents and records of the government and copies of most books and magazines published in the united states. but the one thing we wanted to see was in a glass case near the front of the building. the foundation of all the powers and laws of our government. we couldn't really have a form of government without it. the original constitution of the united states of america. provides for a government with three main branches each with special functions uncle jim says, this is how they work. the constitution provides that the law shall be made by the legislative branch. carried out by the executive branch and interpreted by a third branch of the government the judicial branch to make certain no law violates the constitution.
legislative executive judicial these are the three main branches of our federal government now bill. let's go take a look at one of them. well, we went on to take a look at each of the three branches to see how it works. our first stop was the capital building. that's where the legislative branch or congress meets uncle. jim was anxious to tell me first-hand. just what congress does after all he's a congressman. he explained it to me this way. the capital is that heart of our system of representative government bill the members of congress who meet there make our laws that they can act only according to powers granted them by the constitution. the first article deals with congress itself, which must be divided into two bodies. first the house of representatives members of the house are elected on the basis of population. the entire country is divided up into congressional districts of about 300,000 people each
members of the house are elected for short terms two years since they have to come up for re-election so often they must constantly be responsive to the wishes of the voters. it is here also that delegates from our territories sit as non-voting members. for the house does only half the job of making the laws the other half is done by the senate which meets in the other wing of the capital. senators are elected on the basis of state representation two senators from each state regardless of his population. they hold office for long term six years. their terms of office are staggered so that some expire every two years thus guaranteeing that there will always be experienced men in the senate. all our federal laws have to go through both the house and the senate. this is the way it works bill. first a proposed law is introduced into one branch of the legislature as a bill. it has always been a number and is printed like this one.
the bill is then turned over to one of the legislative committees for consideration the committee holds hearings where the public and common speak for or against the proposed legislation. this gives our citizens a chance to make their wishes on each law known to congress. sometimes these these hearings go on for months. unless it is killed by the committee the bill then goes to the floor of the house or senate wherever it originated to be discussed and voted on. suppose for example that this bill started in the house of representatives if it is passed it then goes on to the senate. if the senate votes against the bill it dies but of its past in the senate the bill must be sent on to the president. the president may either sign it in which case it becomes a law or he may veto it if he vetoes the bill. it may still become a law if the senate and house override his
veto by a two-thirds vote. but in addition to making laws congress has certain other specific duties to perform for instance issues all the money in circulation throughout the usa under its constitutional power to borrow money on the credit of the united states. through the bureau of printing and engraving and the federal mints the federal government makes all the coins and all the currency which all of us use in our everyday business. of course congress can't just print new money every time it has to pay the expenses of the government. so the constitution gives congress the power to raise what it needs by levying and collecting taxes duties imposts and excises. you must have heard your father speak about the income tax. these exercises and duties are taxes levied on such things as movie admissions.
gasoline luxuries such as jewelry furs silverware and other things another way congress raises money to run the government is from taxes on goods imported from other countries. these are called tariffs. congress also regulates commerce among the states goods moving across state boundaries are not taxed but such commerce is regulated by congress through the interstate commerce commission. congress and only congress has the power to declare war even though the president may call for a declaration of war. and when the united states is involved in international agreements the senate is all important, for example the signature of our secretary of state to the united nations charter.
had to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the senate. a clause in the constitution states that treaties are made by the president but only with the advice and consent of the senate. from the capital we went down pennsylvania avenue for a look at the white house. that's where the president lives. the white house represents the executive branch of the government. before he got through i could see why uncle jim said that the president has the biggest and toughest job in the world. yes, bill. the white house is both the home and office of the president. the president is chosen by the people through the electoral college. some of the presidents' duties are set by the constitution others are established by laws treaties president and public opinion. the president's main job is to take care of the law should be faithfully executed. he must decide whether to sign
or to veto every congressional bill and when a bill becomes law he is responsible for putting that law into effect. to help him. the president has 10 permanent executive departments. state treasury war justice post office navy interior agriculture commerce and labor the secretary of each department is a member of the president's cabinet, which is his chief advisory body. from time to time as emergencies arise special independent agencies are created to assist the president to examples are the veterans administration and the federal security agency. i probably don't need to tell you that the president is also commander in chief of the armed forces. this is a heavy responsibility for congress gives him the power of making many military
decisions in conducting a war. finally, it's the president's duty to record needed. he usually does this in an annual message to a joint session of congress. well the next stop in our tour was the supreme court building. this is where they decide whether our laws follow the meaning of the constitution. uncle jim told me to notice the inscription over the entrance equal justice under law. he said that this pretty well sums up the purpose of the supreme court then he went on to explain what it meant. the supreme court is the judicial branch of the federal government here. the law itself is on trial. it is judged according to whether it violates our constitutional rights. the court is composed of nine justices who hold office for
life members are nominated by the president, but their appointments must be confirmed by the senate. now you should have a good idea of how the constitution sets up the three main branches of our government. the legislature which is congress. the executive branch which is the president. and the judiciary which is the supreme court. the legislature is charged with making policies. that is it passes the laws. the executive is responsible for carrying out policies. and the judiciary is charged with reviewing and judging policies. but while each of these branches of government has its own clearly defined duties they all work together as a team through a system of checks and balances. here are some examples of what i mean. the president appoints justices
to the supreme court executive balances judicial. congress determines the size of the supreme court legislative balances judicial the president has veto power over the bill sent to him by congress executive checks legislative. the president can propose laws. he thinks need to be passed executive balances legislative. the supreme court has power to declare unconstitutional any law passed by congress judicial checks legislative. congress must approve many of the appointments made by the president legislative checks executive. congress appropriates money for
the executive departments legislative balances executive that's the way the constitution balances all three branches to keep them working together as a team. it's an important principle of our government. by the time i got this far on my story the gang was beginning to see how important this business of teamwork is to every american citizen. and to realize how far ahead the founding fathers were looking and guaranteeing that nobody in our federal government would ever get too much power in setting it up so that the three federal branches would have to work together for the good of all the people it was at the washington monument that i began to get the feeling that maybe these men were still watching us uncle jim sort of suggested the idea. george washington was the great fighter bill. he knew independence always had to be fought for. it took him to bring together the quarreling states which are always quicker to fight each
other and they were to tackle a common enemy. others like thomas jefferson all believing we could become a nation where people would be more important than anything else and where the people could govern themselves. i think jefferson would have a lot to say today about those democratic principles. he first taught equal rights and equal opportunity for all. and abraham lincoln why lincoln has become a hero to the oppressed people all over the world because he lived and died for freedom and equality and because he led the country through one of its greatest crises. he believed that government of the people by the people and for
the people should not perish from the earth. well bill, washington and jefferson and lincoln are dead. they began our democracy, but they knew the job would have to be finished by those who lived after them. and they knew that this democracy would last only as long as its citizens were willing to keep working on it. it's our government bill. from here on it's up to us.