The government of the United States is that of a federal republic set up by the Constitution of the United States, adopted by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. There is a division of powers between the federal government and the state governments. The federal government consists of three branches: the executive, the legislative, and the judicial. The executive power is vested in the President and, in the event of the President's incapacity, the Vice President. (For a chronological list of all the presidents and vice presidents of the United States, including their terms in office and political parties, see the table entitled Presidents of the United States.) The executive conducts the administrative business of the nation with the aid of a cabinet composed of the Attorney General and the Secretaries of the Departments of State; Treasury; Defense; Interior; Agriculture; Commerce; Labor; Health and Human Services; Education; Housing and Urban Development; Transportation; Energy; and Veterans' Affairs.
The Congress of the United States, the legislative branch, is bicameral and consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The judicial branch is formed by the federal courts and headed by the U.S. Supreme Court. The members of the Congress are elected by universal suffrage (see election) as are the members of the electoral college, which formally chooses the President and the Vice President.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.