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The Powers Of The United States Congress

Written by | July 10th, 2009

When our founders drafted The United States Constitution, The Federal Government was given explicit powers…

First let’s look at the powers granted to The (Legislative Branch) United States Congress:

Article 1, Section 8:
  • The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;
  • To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;
  • To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;
  • To establish an uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States;
  • To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures;
  • To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current Coin of the United States;
  • To establish Post Offices and post Roads;
  • To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries;
  • To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court;
  • To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offences against the Law of Nations;
  • To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
  • To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
  • To provide and maintain a Navy;
  • To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;
  • To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
  • To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;
  • To exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, over such District (not exceeding ten Miles square) as may, by Cession of particular States, and the Acceptance of Congress, become the Seat of the Government of the United States, and to exercise like Authority over all Places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature of the State in which the Same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, Arsenals, dock-Yards, and other needful Buildings;
And lastly, the below clause, has often been used by Congress to expand their authority, and to make additional laws “as they deem necessary”; this is also referred to as The  Elastic Clause; and some refer to it as The Necessary and Proper Clause:
  • —And To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the “foregoing” Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. 
Now, let’s look at the powers withheld from The United States Congress: 
Article 1, Section 9:
  • The Migration or Importation of such Persons (prev. referred to as slaves) as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight (1808), but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.
  • The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.
  • No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.
  • No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.
  • No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.
  • No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.
  • No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.
  • No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. 
These days, we hear a lot about The Tenth Amendment of The Constitution; the first ten amendments are also known as The Bill of Rights; which are the citizens’ rights, protected by The Constitution: Let’s take a quick look at The Tenth Amendment: 

“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

So, this is very interesting: after reading The Tenth Amendment, you would think, any powers that were not given to the Federal Government, by The Constitution, are explicitly retained by the states and the people, respectively.

For me, this begs the question, where does The Elastic Clause end, and The Tenth Amendment begin?


Further Reading:
The Powers of The United States President
The Powers of The United States Federal Courts

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10 thoughts on “The Powers Of The United States Congress

  1. KEB

    I am glad to see this in print. Many people today fail to see the unabated path to the destruction of this nation from where it once stood so proudly.

    The government has usurped the rights of the people to self govern, mainly by restricting states rights, you can thank the 17th Amendment for that one.

    The right to govern interstate commerce, as directed by the Constitution is where the federal government derives the bulk of its power, but I have to ask the question that nobody seems to want to ask. Just because we “can” do something, does that necessarily mean we should?

    Our government, the 535 in congress, those in The White House, and the supreme judicial branch, have made it their goal to purposefully and without regard to the citizens of this country,  shackle the spirit that made this country great.

    I am angry and disgusted with the turn of events, particularly those of the congress in the last 6 years or so. Our country is is under siege from within, and there is nothing standing in the way of a complete and utter chaotic overtaking of this land, with the ultimate price being the enslavement of its people to the government.

    It is past time to be worried, it is now time to take out that garbage that has been calling Washington home for the last 6 years! The stench makes me want to puke!

    Reply
  2. markross Post author

    “Just because we “can” do something, does that necessarily mean we should?”

    By all means…questioning our system is a healthy thing; it is what helps bring introspection and positive change to our country. If our founders did not want us to question their system, then certainly would not have given us the the First Amendment right to petition our government.

    My answer to your question is, no, I do not believe that we have to unequivocally agree to every thing written in The Constitution; in fact, I am one that believes our founders left The Constitution too open to interpretation; I wish they had more clearly delineated some of the things written in the Constitution; and particularly, the separation of powers between the state and the federal government.

    In fact, with all that is going on these days, with the rapid expansion of the federal government, and failure of our Reps to properly represent us,  I am starting to think that we need more of a true democracy and less of a Republic.

    Reply
  3. KEB

    “I am starting to think that we need more of a true democracy and less of a Republic.”

    Surely not … that is the problem we are faced with now. We have a government that is EXACTLY what the people voted for. The issue isn’t that they aren’t doing what the people want, it is that they are buying the peoples vote because they can.

    If you tell 50 million americans you are going to cut their social security and/or medicare, I promise you that the bulk of them will not vote for you … even though at some point that might be what happens. If you tell people that you are going to raise taxes, they won’t vote for you, BUT, if you tell people that you will give them a tax rebate, even though they didn’t pay anything in, if you tell them that you will punish the evil rich people for being astute in business and investment, then you will have people voting for you in throngs.

    The issue is deeper than just our government, it is also the voter apathy, and the mere fact that politicians can lie their way into power because some poor sap voted for them because of the remuneration they will get from the public treasury. If this remuneration was done away with, people would vote for the person best suited to provide the governance as required by the Constitution, not as required by the group that can get the most votes via fraud and ill promised lies.

    Reply
  4. Jackie Post author

    I appreciate your article. I get so frustrated with all the Americans, especial Christian Americans who have their heads stuck in the ground and don’t care to hear what is going on in this country and get involved by writing their Congress members.

    I write a blog at FaithfulinPrayer.wordpress.com and have written on this topic also. Today’s article was “Entitlements Redefined”. This is another area of shame in our country. So many get on entitlement programs, and then get stuck there because it is so difficult to get off.

    Reply
  5. markross Post author

    "If this remuneration was done away with, people would vote for the person best suited to provide the governance as required by the Constitution, not as required by the group that can get the most votes via fraud and ill promised lies".

    Sadly, these politicians did not have the political will to make the necessary reform and changes; as a result, we are all going to suffer. The silver-lining is, god willing, we get out of this mess, then we may come out of it more wise, and fiscally responsible.

    I do believe that a whole lot of reform should be taking place with our federal government, but I do not have a lot of confidence that they will do it themselves; which then puts the burden on the citizens of this country to force it to happen.

    Reply
  6. markross Post author

    Hey K,
    Yes, I agree with every point you have made in the above comment…
    We see fiscal responsibility as a means to grow our economy for the benefit of an entire nation, whereas the fiscally irresponsible politicians see giving gifts and programs from the national treasury as re-election insurance.

    I’ve said this a million times and a million ways…we are a charitable nation, and in good economic times, the people who are doing well, will give to charities that help the homeless, the poor and the uninsured…We are just fed up with the government mandates, as they continually extort more money from our earnings, only to build one more government ran disaster; which then is counter-productive and effects all of us in the end; as we are seeing today.

    “Surely not … that is the problem we are faced with now.”

    So, are you saying that if the people had more power to vote for legislation, they would likely vote for more gifts from the national treasury?

    Perhaps there should be an Independent counsel that actually “does work for the people”, and puts strict monetary standards on the government’s law making, as assurance that we will be much better positioned as a nation in the future.

    It is interesting to continually hear them speak of regulation when they are the ones that are most in need of regulation.

    Reply
  7. markross Post author

    Hi Jackie,
    I read your article and commented on it; it was very good thank you.
    Keep up the great work! Education is half of the battle.

    Reply
  8. KEB

    “So, are you saying that if the people had more power to vote for legislation, they would likely vote for more gifts from the national treasury?”

    That is exactly what I am saying.

    Reply
  9. markross Post author

    We should also keep in mind that many (if not most) Americans have been lead to believe that the government was going to take care of everything, via such programs as Social Security, Medicare … and on and on.

    As a result, I think many people have not been properly educated to take personal responsibility, and understand the full cataclysmic effects that all of these large entitlements, via government deficits, have put on our overall economy.

    To that extent, I have faith that more people are learning the things we really needed to learn years ago; and will hopefully cause us all to take more personal responsiblity, and be more prudent for our futures, and our children’s futures.

    Hopefully, as a society, we can all get away from “so much” government dependence, which they have cleverly made so many dependent on, over the years.

    Reply
  10. markross Post author

    The stages of democracy, as perceived by Alexander Fraser Tytler and/or Lord Thomas B. Macaulay, “hauntingly,” shows exactly where we are today.

    In our Republic, instead of the people being able to vote for gifts and entitlements directly from the national treasury, Representatives have found that they can win votes through promising such gifts to the people of their constituencies; effectively making our national treasury a form of re-election insurance.

    So, indeed, the problems that we are facing today, are not just about our Representatives, but also the apathy, complacency, and lack of knowledge (in many cases) that many people have as well.

    And the consequences of this apathy, complacency, and lack of knowledge, are catastrophic!

    “When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.” -Benjamin Franklin

    Reply

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