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The U.S. Government - How Does it Work?

Try to answer these multiple choice questions about the U.S. government and constitution.
Last updated: January 17, 2019
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1. Who elects the President?
The people
The governors of the various states
The Electoral College
The Senate
2. If the President and the Vice President were to die, who would become President?
Secretary of State
Speaker of the House
Runner-up in the Previous Election
Secretary of Defense
3. Who decides the interest rate at which the U.S. government lends money to banks?
The banks themselves
The President
Congress
The Federal Reserve
4. What group includes the President, Vice President, and the heads of the most important government departments?
The Cabinet
The Closet
The Chamber
The Canteen
5. Washington D.C. has one "delegate" in the House of Representatives. Is he or she allowed to vote on legislation?
No
Yes
6. If a President is impeached, are they removed from power?
No
Yes
Once a President is impeached by the House of Representatives they must be convicted by 2/3rds of the Senate to be removed
7. Can the President fire a federal judge?
No
Yes
8. Who owns the debt of the U.S. government?
Mostly other countries
Mostly people and groups within the U.S.
Foreign governments own about 30% of U.S. Federal Debt
9. How long is a U.S. Senator's term?
2 years
4 years
6 years
8 years
10. According to the Constitution, how many justices serve on the Supreme Court?
7
9
12
It doesn't say
The size of the Supreme Court has varied over time between 6 and 10. FDR tried to "pack" the court, by increasing the size to 15, but Congress didn't approve his plans.
11. What gives the U.S. government the right to impose a personal income tax?
The original Constitution
The 16th Amendment
Nothing, but they do it anyway
The 16th Amendment was ratified in 1913
12. As originally ratified in 1788, who did the Constitution give voting rights to?
Male citizens
Male white citizens
Male property owners over 21
It doesn't say
The original Constitution left it up to the states
13. According to the Constitution, what powers does the federal government have?
It can do anything except what is explicitly restricted
It can do nothing except what is explicitly allowed
14. Who can cast a vote in the Senate only to break a tie?
The President
The Vice President
The President Pro Tempore
The Speaker of the House
15. Can the President legally send troops to fight without an authorization from Congress?
No
Yes, for sixty days
Yes
The War Powers Act was passed in 1973, overriding the veto of President Nixon
+3
level 73
Jan 17, 2019
I was really back and forth on #10. Ended up picking the wrong one.
+1
level ∞
Jan 17, 2019
It's a pretty important issue right now. The founders really messed up when it came to the Supreme Court. I'm surprised it's worked as well as it has honestly.

A better system? The President can appoint a justice every two years, without the approval of the Senate. Justices would serve for 18 years.

+3
level 55
Feb 12, 2019
Why shouldn't the Senate have to confirm nominees?
+7
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
^ well one reason would be that by refusing to even bring it up for a vote the Senate can effectively steal seats on the Supreme Court the way they did to Obama. But I don't think they should get through automatically, either. Just think of the clowns Trump would have appointed if that were the case.
+3
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
Requiring Senate approval for judicial appointees isn't the problem. The problem is that Senate procedural rules give far too much power to the Senate Majority Leader in terms of controlling what does and does not come up for a vote, and Mitch McConnell is very, very good at abusing that power.
+1
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
I do think the idea of nominating 1 judge to the Supreme Court per X amount of time (2 years or whatever) has some merit, though you'd still have cases of people dying or retiring before the end of their terms, and so some Presidents would get to make more appointments than others.
+1
level 62
Jan 22, 2019
Not only does the Constitution not say, but the number has jumped around a lot: 5, 6, 7, 10. It has stayed at 9 since 1869.
+2
level 69
Jan 17, 2019
Some technical points on Puerto Rico: the position is called "resident commissioner" not "delegate." Depending on the rules of the current session of Congress, the delegate is often allowed to vote on procedural matters and in committee. They are NOT allowed a vote on the House floor for legislation and other important matters. So saying that they "can't vote" is incomplete. (The same is true for other U.S. territories and Washington DC, where I live, where we are subject to taxation without full representation).
+5
level ∞
Jan 17, 2019
Changed Puerto Rico to Washington D.C. and added the words "on legislation".
+1
level 69
Jan 19, 2019
excellent. thanks!
+1
level 62
Jan 22, 2019
You should try tossing some tea in the Potomac. Something similar worked out well for us here in Boston.
+1
level 58
Feb 25, 2019
When Republicans hold the majority, delegates and the resident commissioner have no vote on the floor on anything, procedural or not. When Democrats hold the majority, they can vote on most amendments that technically are debated and voted on in a body called "the Committee of the Whole," which constitutes the entire house and meets on the House floor. So they definitely vote on legislation, so that isn't quite fixed. They can't vote on final passage of legislation, though.
+2
level 71
Jan 18, 2019
The quiz's title is something I've been asking myself, in a state of disbelief, for the length of this shutdown (1 month and counting at the time of writing).
+2
level 70
Jan 22, 2019
Techincally, the Fed only sets a target for short term lending rates (the Fed funds rate). The market actually sets base curve for interest rates in practice. Spreads determine actual lending rates (term spreads or credit spreads, for example).
+1
level 43
Feb 22, 2019
Question one is misleading. While the Electoral College gives a presidential candidate the win, the majority/plurality of people in each state have to still vote for that candidate for him/her to win all the electoral votes. Also, the vast majority of the time, the elected officials do not dissent from their originally "assigned" electoral vote. Therefore, shouldn't the answer be both the people and the electoral college?
+1
level 43
Feb 22, 2019
And, for those arguing that the electoral college winner can differ from the popular vote winner, there has never been a time when a candidate had a majority (defined as 50%+1) of the popular vote and lost the electoral vote; each time it has happened, there were third party candidates that had a higher percentage of the vote than the difference between the winner and runner-up in the election. The only exception to this was Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams in 1824, when Jackson won the popular vote and had the most electoral votes, but came one electoral vote short (House of Reps voted for Adams over Jackson).
+1
level 58
Feb 25, 2019
There is no requirement in the Constitution that the electors are elected by popular vote. The electors are elected as directed by the state legislatures. South Carolina did not allow popular elections for the electoral college until 1868 (i.e., after its government was forcibly removed by the Civil War.
+1
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
so what? Since when is winning the popular vote, but not getting a majority of all votes, not grounds for saying that you won the popular vote but lost the election? Why would you even think that that was relevant? Donald Trump lost the election by nearly 3 million votes. So what if Gary Johnson was running? He didn't get a single electoral vote. Republicans have only won the popular vote once since 1990, and this is the only reason why they've been trying to convince everyone that it's important to keep it in place.
+2
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
kalbahamut. The founding father were smart when they made the electoral college. They didn't want a few large states to constantly decide elections. (By the way that is why every state has 2 members in the senate...to counteract states that have a large contingent in the house) You may be happy with illinois, new york and california deciding every presidential election, but I would not. Also Trump won 37 states which shows the power of the people over the whole country and not just a few small concentrated area.
+2
level 34
Mar 12, 2019
Very well written tbolt. Thank you!
+2
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
Making sure that states with lower population still matter to the election process was a good thing, but there's also a good argument to be made that the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. When you calculate the ratio of voters to electoral votes in each state, voters in some of those more rural states have FAR more voting power than people in more populated states, and that's not fair either. "Tyranny of the majority" can indeed be a problem, but "tyranny of the minority" is not the correct solution.
+2
level 55
Mar 12, 2019
@tbolt what would be the problem with deciding presidential elections by popular vote, given that everyone in the country is voting on the same thing? Why should states, whether they are California, New York or Illinois, or Wyoming, Alaska or North Dakota, get a say or get involved at all? Surely it should just be the electors.
+2
level 39
Mar 12, 2019
If the electoral college were to be abolished, it wouldn't be an issue of a few states dictating the outcome, it would be an issue of a few metropolises controlling the outcome. Take New York for example. Besides the New York City area, the rest of the state leans Republican, including the larger cities of Buffalo and Syracuse. Same with Illinois. Chicago dictates the entire slant of Illinois' politics. Even Nevada has the same issue with Las Vegas. Although Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, the distribution of voters favored Donald Trump. As someone who lives in a smaller town, I would hate to have megacities nowhere near me controlling a nation-wide election.
+2
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
tbolt yeah that's the BS conservative media have programmed you to recite when anyone brings this up. Good job. We have moved past the notion that we are a union of different independent states with competing interests. We are one nation of 300+ million citizens, not a collection of states. There's no good reason why someone voting in Wyoming should have more than 3 1/2 x more voting power than someone voting in New York or California.
+1
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
kalbahamut. The founding fathers knew what they were doing. The had experienced all the negatives and that is exactly why they designed things the way they are today. It worked fine for over 200 years, but you are dissatisfied with the results today, so you want to change things. So according to you we should abolish all 50 states and make everything a big country. Good luck with that. By the way, it is not the bs conservative media. IT"S THE CONSTITUTION OF THE US. Get over your hate snowflake
+2
level 69
Mar 12, 2019
tbolt, excellent understanding of fair representation. Liberals always cry about the electoral college stealing the election from the popular voted candidate except they keep looking at it from one point of view. When 37 out of 50 states elected Trump, he won the most states -- he won 74% of the states. That looks popular to me.
+2
level 69
Mar 12, 2019
kalbahamut, we are a nation of 300+ million citizens AND a collection of states. I don't know where you live (although I think I could give a safe guess) but I moved OUT of the state of California (born and raised there) to escape the socialism to a free state. If we were, as you claim, not a collection of states then we would not have the freedom to leave dumps like California for states that allow us less taxes and regulations. Liberals just don't like anyone except them having a voice so they scream the system is unfair. The Founding Fathers were ahead of their time and brilliant thinkers to set up the system as they did.
+2
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
I'm waiting for someone smart enough to have a conversation with.
+1
level 67
Mar 13, 2019
kalbahamut, you are getting a conversation from many "smart" people. Our opinions are based the Constitution of the USA. You opinions are based on hate and you refuse to listen because of your hate.
+1
level 67
Mar 13, 2019
TWM03 The US is not a true democracy, but a representative democracy where elected officials represent the people. That is why there are 538 electoral votes. The total of adding 435 from the house , 100 from the senate and 3 from the District of Columbia.
+1
level 55
Mar 13, 2019
I understand the numerous advantages of representative democracy. People can vote for representatives to make more complex decisions that most people don't care about for them. The presidential election is not a complex decision that most people don't care about. If the whole country is literally voting on the same one issue, and the majority vote in one way, and what they voted for doesn't get passed, it really raises the question of what the point of the separate election was.
+1
level 75
Mar 16, 2019
The Constitution of the United States is made to be amended and has been many times. Anybody who is a fan of the founding fathers and the Constitution would understand this. But I noticed you use quotation marks similarly to the current president. Is that you, Mr. Trump? Using your "big a-brain" for some "executive time" to get on and post some of your "best words" on JetPunk again?
+1
level 58
Feb 25, 2019
I was going to say that I hope the jetpunk users who didn't get 100% were mainly non-U.S. users, but the comments make me think it's not.
+1
level 58
Mar 12, 2019
I'm American. The only one I missed was that the president can send troops without congressional approval for sixty days (I know he can send troops, but I did not know about the time limit). Seems like we send troops to fight in foreign lands for years at a time without ever declaring war (which I know must be declared by Congress), so I just assumed there was no time limit. Oh well. I learned something.
+1
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
Congress can give an Authorization for Use of Military Force without making an official declaration of war. For all practical purposes it seems to be a purely semantic distinction, but that's how it is that the US military is perpetually fighting all over the globe despite Congress not officially declaring war in well over half a century. This all comes from the War Powers Resolution of 1973, if you want to look into it a little further.
+1
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
Are we accepting requests from the White House for quiz titles now?
+1
level 34
Mar 12, 2019
HaHaHa. Very funny. Always unbiased.
+6
level 58
Mar 12, 2019
I'm sorry, I need to take issue with this "bias" comment. Trump supporters need to stop insisting everything is "bias." Trump has demonstrated, repeatedly, that he has a poor grasp of how our government functions. I'm not talking about whether he's a good guy or whether his policies are effective. I am talking about his actual understanding of the roles, powers, and limitations of the government and its bodies. He always seems surprised to learn he can't do whatever he wants. The man had zero experience with government before he took office, so he doesn't know how it works. He thinks he is a CEO. He isn't. A government is not a business. Reporting is not "biased" just because it's always negative. The New York Knicks are 13-54 right now, and the New York press is killing them. Is that anti-Knick bias? No. It's fair reporting on the fact that the Knicks are bad. If you are consistently terrible, people will consistently report that you are terrible. Not bias. Facts.
+2
level 67
Mar 12, 2019
@jmellor13 well said!
+1
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
BMillz: thanks! I try to be funny and avoid bias whenever I can.
+2
level 76
Mar 12, 2019
I really wish that more people understood #13. The larger the federal government, the smaller the freedoms of the people and the individual states. The overreach is mind-boggling.
+3
level 58
Mar 12, 2019
This is only true if you are in the majority in your state. Minority groups (and I mean actual, less than 50% groups, not just people who aren't white) in states need the federal government to ensure their constitutional rights are protected. There are 26 states where you can be fired or denied housing for being gay. So what if you're a gay man in Alabama and you can't afford to move to a new state (or you just don't want to abandon your family and hometown)? Does the supremacy of local law really make you freer? No, it makes you less free. Federal law (sometimes) intercedes to protect people who would otherwise be unfairly subjugated by local laws. The notion of "government overreach" is popular mostly with people who have always had all the freedoms, but without intervention from the federal Supreme Court, black people would still have separate schools. You mean to tell me they are less free as a consequence of Brown v. Board? No way.
+1
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
less free to discriminate, restrict, and disenfranchise. That's typically what "states rights" advocates have always wanted the freedom to do.
+1
level 49
Mar 12, 2019
I'm from Malaysia and living in China, have never been to the United States and know almost nothing about its politics but managed to get 10/15!
+1
level 79
Mar 12, 2019
A better quiz would be "The U.S. Government - Why Doesn't It Work?"
+1
level 75
Mar 12, 2019
I made that one already.
+1
level 79
Mar 12, 2019
Nice.