The government of the United States is one of the biggest in the world—over four million people work for the government! The U.S. government is responsible for things like handling taxes, maintaining roads and bridges, regulating the economy, and more. With how big it is, and with how much it’s responsible for, it can be hard to wrap your head around how the whole thing works.
The legislative branch is the part of the government that creates new laws or changes old ones. We usually think of Congress as the legislative branch, but it also covers some government agencies as well.
The executive branch includes the president, vice president, the president’s cabinet, and all of the departments and agencies they run. They execute the laws made by the legislative branch—that is to say they take the laws and put them into action.
The judicial branch refers to the country’s courts. There are a lot of different kinds of courts, but the most important is the Supreme Court. The job of the Supreme Court is to interpret and clarify the laws, and to determine if laws are constitutional (if they agree with the rules in our Constitution).
Government agencies aren’t considered a branch of government, but they’re important to running the government day to day. Agencies create policies and guidelines to act out the laws made by Congress—for example if Congress passes a law to reduce gas emissions, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would handle the fine details and see that the law goes into effect.
Since the United States is a democratic republic, we vote for who gets to run the government. That means that the rules about voting—who can vote, how they vote, and when they vote—is an important part of how the government is run.