Lesson Plan: Policymaking and the Three Branches of Government

Policymaking by the Three Branches

At the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) discussed how the Constitution structured the three branches of government and how Congress has delegated policymaking responsibilities to the executive and judicial branches.


The Constitution divides power amongst the three branches of government. This lesson looks at ways that each branch influences and creates public policy through legislation, executive orders, bureaucratic rulemaking and judicial interpretation. Students will view videos explaining these policymaking processes and determine the benefits and drawbacks of each.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have the students answer the following questions as a warm-up.

    • What are the three branches of government and what are their primary functions?

    • What is the process for making laws?

    Review the answers with the students and ensure that they have a working understanding of the three branches of government, their functions and the lawmaking process.

    As an introduction, have the students define the following terms in their own words.

    • Agency

    • Bureaucracy

    • Delegation

    • Executive Order

    • Regulation

    Have the students view the following video clips and complete the chart linked below. Students can also answer the questions associated with each video clip to guide their viewing.

    HANDOUT: Policymaking and the Branches of Government (Google Doc)

    For each branch of government, students should take notes on:

    • Ways of Developing Policy

    • Reasons for/Benefits of this Branch Creating Policy

    • Obstacles and Drawbacks for this Branch Creating Policy
  • Video Clip 1: Policymaking by the Three Branches- Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) (6:35)

    • How does the legislative branch create public policy?

    • What does Sen. Sasse mean when he says that the "legislature is supposed to be controversial, noisy and sometimes rowdy?" How does this benefit the policymaking process?

    • How does the policymaking in Congress give the people more say in the process?

    • How do the laws that Congress writes allow for agencies and the bureaucracy to create and influence policy?

    • What are the reasons for Congress creating these vague laws?

    • Based on Sen. Sasse's description, how does the Supreme Court influence public policy?
  • Video Clip 2: The Use of Executive Orders and Regulation to Enact Policy (2:54)

    • How has the way that we enact policy changed over the last 20 years?

    • According to Mr. Gibson, why is effecting change through debate and legislation preferred?

    • What are the consequences of effecting change through executive orders and regulations? What problems does this cause?

    • How does the process of making laws bring us together as a country?
  • Video Clip 3: Rulemaking by Administrative Agencies (2:31)

    • What reasons are given for administrative agencies developing rules?

    • According to Mr. Wallison, what are the dangers of using administrative agencies to enact policy?
  • Video Clip 4: Justice Breyer on Courts Creating Law (2:59)

    • What is the role of the Supreme Court?

    • How does Justice Breyer's story exemplify the role of a judge?

    • How is the act of a judge creating a new legal interpretation similar to making law or public policy? How is it different from making law or public policy?

    Based on the notes from the video clips, address the following question either through a written response or another activity found on C-SPAN's Classroom Deliberation site.

    • Is the current system of policymaking by the three branches of government an effective way of creating policy?

    As an exit slip, have the students respond to the following questions in 1-3 sentences.

    • How is public policymaking a responsibility shared by all three branches of government?

    Policymaking Memes- Develop a meme that reflects one of the branches' ability to influence public policy. Be prepared to explain how your meme relates to that branches' policymaking ability.

    Public Policymaking Flowchart- Create a flowchart that illustrates the different ways that each branch influences and creates public policy. Include graphics or pictures that represent each branch and the actions that they can take.


    • Does the current system of policymaking by the three branches of government align with the separation of powers established by the Constitution?

    • What are the consequences of the current ways that the branches of government share policymaking authorities?

    • Which branch of government has the most influence on public policymaking?

    • To what extent is the will of the people reflected in the public policymaking process?

    • Based on Senator Sasse's statement, what actions can the legislative branch take to reclaim policymaking authorities?

Additional Resources


  • Administrative Agencies
  • Article One
  • Bureaucracy
  • Constituency
  • Constitution
  • Delegation
  • Discretion
  • Executive Order
  • Incumbency
  • Interpretation
  • Judicial Branch
  • Lawmaking Process
  • Legislative Branch
  • Policymaking
  • Regulations
  • Rule Of Law
  • Separation Of Powers
  • Supreme Court


Bureaucracy & RegulationExecutive BranchJudicial BranchLegislative Branch


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