The foundation of American government

This FedWeb page is presented as a public service and affirmation of the civic importance of understanding the essential principles at the heart of our American democracy including the Constitutional Separation of Powers, Checks & Balances, and the Rule of Law.

“It is well to remember that it is rules and laws that keep the powerful in check and the people in control.” –The Honorable Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia, February 15, 2002.

Constitutional Separation of Powers and the Rule of Law


  • Nuclear Option: The U.S. Senate exercised the so-called “nuclear option” on 4/6/17 – ignoring its own Standing Rules that require a 2/3 threshold to reach a vote on rules changes – and adopted by majority vote a precedent that filibusters of Supreme Court nominees can be ended with 50 votes, rather than 60. This cleared the way for the Majority Party to confirm the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch, with only 54 votes. Fearing that this may lead to the demise of the legislative filibuster (which requires a super-majority of 60 to reach a vote on most legislative matters), a bipartisan group of 61 senators signed a letter on April 7, 2017 urging Senate leaders to maintain the 60-vote requirement; however, the letter is non-binding. See our blog The Senate’s “Nuclear Option” — How it Works and Why It Matters.

Constitution of the United States

The Bill of Rights

Constitution Annotated

The Federalist Papers (essays by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay advocating for adoption of the Constitution)

Declaration of Independence


U.S. Congress records from 1774 to 1875

Additional Primary Documents in American History

How Our Laws Are Made