The Politics Pages

The United States Constitution, The United States Code, and Related Citations for Regulations and Rulemaking


Why a reference?

Good question. It seems to me that few people understand the structure of law in this country (Federal law in particular). Where do laws come from? (We all know about the Congress and the separation of powers, "Checks and Balances," and all of that other "stuff" we studied in school, but really: from where?) And what is the difference between a law and a regulation? And what is that about "rules and regulations" (there's a difference between a rule and a regulation?).

A hierarchy: The Constitution is First

Yes, at the top of the hierarchy of law is The United States Constitution (here linked at The National Archives), which lays-out the structure of the government, explcitly and implictly enumerates rights of the people, and provides the framework for the function of the government.

Government as framed in the Constitution

The United States Federal Government has three branches:

The work of the Legislature, the laws themselves, may be found first in the "Statutes at Large," which are the laws as passed, and then in the United States Code (USC), which are the codified body of laws.

The way the Executive conducts these laws is laid-out in the body of Federal regulations, the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR). Becoming a regulation requires several steps, including publication in the Federal Register of a "Notice of Proposed Rulemaking." This is followed by a comment period, and ultimately the new rule is published and becomes part of the CFR).

Questions on the laws may be decided by the Federal Judiciary, which may rule on interpretation of the law or on the constitutionality of the law.

A mirror of this process takes place at the state level.

The relevant elements of the Constitution with respect to the functions of the Federal Government.

The Essential Steps of Laws and Regulations

The process starts in Congress:

  1. Legislation (the "bill") is passed by Congress, and
  2. The bill goes to the President; then,
  3. Assuming enactment into law by one of the above means,

So, how does this work in the real world?

Here are some examples of how this legislative to executive hierarchy works, going from the law passed by the Congress, to the law's codification in the United States Code, to the Executive Branch's implementation of the law through regulations codified in the Code of Federal Regulations:

rev.: 12 November 2012 [ TOP ] [ Notes-&-Rants Page ] [ HOME ]

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