The Powers Of The United States Congress

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.  

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

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The Powers Of The United States President

Below, are the powers granted to The (Executive Branch) President of The United States:

Article 2, Section 2:

  • The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
  • He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
  • The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.

Then there are presidential duties:

Article 2, Section 3:

  • He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information on the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.

And lastly, an United States President can be impeached (removed from office) for any of the below reasons:

  • The President, Vice President and all Civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.

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The Powers Of The United States Federal Courts

Below, are the powers granted to The (Judicial Branch) Federal Courts by The Constitution:

Article 3, Section 1:

  • The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The Judges, both of the supreme and inferior Courts, shall hold their Offices during good Behaviour, and shall, at stated Times, receive for their Services, a Compensation, which shall not be diminished during their Continuance in Office.

Article 3, Section 2:

  • The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction;—to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;—to Controversies between two or more States;—between a State and Citizens of another State;—between Citizens of different States;—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.
  • In all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, and those in which a State shall be Party, the supreme Court shall have original Jurisdiction. In all the other Cases before mentioned, the supreme Court shall have appellate Jurisdiction, both as to Law and Fact, with such Exceptions, and under such Regulations as the Congress shall make.
  • The Trial of all Crimes, except in Cases of Impeachment, shall be by Jury; and such Trial shall be held in the State where the said Crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any State, the Trial shall be at such Place or Places as the Congress may by Law have directed.

Article 3, Section 3:

  • Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
  • The Congress shall have Power to declare the Punishment of Treason, but no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood, or Forfeiture except during the Life of the Person attained.

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