Congressional Power

Congressional Power
The expressed powers of Congress are listed in the Constitution. Congress also has implied powers, which
are based on the Constitution's right to make any laws that are "necessary and proper" to carry out those
expressed powers. Congress has exercised its implied powers thousands of times over the years. Here are
but a few major illustrations of that fact. Study the cases and acts below and make sure you understand
them and the expressed power from which these examples of implied powers were derived.
1789 The Constitution gives expressed powers to Congress in Article 1, Section 8.
1819 In McCulloch v. Maryland, the Supreme Court holds that the powers to tax, borrow, and regulate
commerce give Congress the implied power to establish a national bank.
1824 Gibbons v. Ogden is the first commerce clause case to reach the Supreme Court. The broad
definition of commerce the Court lays out in its ruling extends federal authority over interstate commerce
1862 The U.S. government issues its first legal tender notes, which are popularly called greenbacks.
1870 In Hepburn v. Griswold the Supreme Court rules that the Constitution does not authorize the printing
of paper money.
1870 The Court reverses its position on the printing of paper money and holds that issuing paper money is
a proper use of the currency power in the Legal Tender cases. The decision in Juliard v. Greenman
(1884) reaffirms this holding.
1890 The Sherman Antitrust Act, based on the commerce power, regulates monopolies and other
practices that limit competition.
1935 The Wagner Act, based on the commerce power, recognizes labor's right to bargain collectively.
1935 The Social Security Act is passed.
1937 The Supreme Court upholds the Social Security Act of 1935 as a proper exercise of the powers to
tax and provide for the general welfare in Steward Machine Co. v. Davis and Helvering v. Davis.
1956 The Interstate and National Highway Act, based on the commerce and war powers, provides for a
national interstate highway system.
1964 The Supreme Court holds the public accommodations provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (no
discrimination based on race, religion, gender, etc.) as a valid exercise of the commerce power in Heart of
Atlanta v. United States.
1965 Congress amends the Social Security Act of 1935 to create Medicare, which covers hospital and
other health-care costs of the elderly.
1973 With the War Powers Resolution of 1973, Congress claims the right to restrict the use of American
forces in combat when a state of war does not exist.
1990 The Americans with Disabilities Act, based on the commerce power, prohibits discrimination against
the physically impaired.
1995 In United States v. Lopez, the Court strikes down the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1990 on the
grounds that the federal government invades reserved powers of the states with this legislation.
Congressional Powers
Study the list below of types of congressional powers and be able to identify these powers as
either legislative or non-legislative.
1. Power to make laws that are necessary and proper, or convenient and
useful, to carrying out expressed powers.
2. Power to secure patents and copyright for investors and authors.
3. Power to decide punishment for federal crimes.
4. Power to set up federal courts.
5. Power to raise and maintain military services.
6. Power to declare war.
7. Power to set up rules about the admission of new states to the country
8. Power to govern the nation’s territories
9. Power to enact naturalization laws and to regulate immigration
10. Power to establish and maintain highways
11. Power to establish post offices
12. Power to set up uniform standards of weights and measures
13. Power to regulate trade with foreign nations and among the states
14. Power to coin money and regulate its value
15. Power to decide how money will be spent
16. Power to borrow money
17. Power to levy and collect taxes
1. Power to administer federal lands
2. Power to admit new states and territories
3. Power to give advice and consent
4. Power to try impeachment cases (Senate)
5. Power to bring impeachment charges (House)
6. Power to elect a President (House) and Vice President (Senate) if no
candidate wins in a majority of votes in the Electoral College
7. Power to propose amendments and to call conventions to propose
amendments at the request of the states
8. Power to conduct investigations
9. Power to regulate elections and to judge the qualifications of elected
The Powers of Congress
Indicate whether the statements below are true (T) or false (F). If the statement is false, replace
the underlined phrase with one that makes the statement true.
1. Those powers of Congress that are not spelled out word for word are called expressed
2. Clause 18 of Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution is often called the Commerce
3. The Constitution gives Congress authority to make laws that are necessary and proper
for executing expressed powers.
4. The first major dispute over implied powers of Congress involved establishment of
the interstate highway system.
5. Thomas Jefferson and his followers argued that the new government had no powers
beyond those expressly granted by the Constitution.
6. Hamilton and strict constructionists believed Congress had the power to do anything
that might be reasonably implied from expressly delegated powers.
_____ _____
Indicate which type of power of Congress the following items refer to. Write the proper letter:
E for expressed legislative power, I for implied legislative power, N for nonlegislative power,
or P for power prohibited under the Constitution-in the space next to the item.
7. impeach the President
8. propose constitutional amendments
9. regulate interstate commerce
10. prohibit race discrimination in hotels and restaurants
11. grant titles of nobility
12. create new federal courts
13. raise and support an army
14. establish a national system of air traffic controllers
15. elect a President if no candidate receives a majority of electoral votes
16. offer advice and consent on treaties made by the President
17. do away with trial by jury
18. establish a state religion
19. lay and collect taxes
20. print paper money
21. conduct investigations
22. take private land for public use without paying for it
23. borrow money
Powers of Congress - Review
Write the letter of the correct answer on the line provided
Both Houses of Congress must vote to a) elect a President if no candidate receives a majority of
electoral votes b) propose constitutional amendments c) impeach a President d) confirm
presidential appointments.
Congress is permitted to a) tax exports b) create a national pubic school system c) enact
nationwide divorce law d) take private property for public use.
The strict constructionists a) were led by Alexander Hamilton b) wished to widen the powers of
Congress c) wanted the states to retain as much power as possible d) favored a liberal
interpretation of the Constitution
McCulloch v. Maryland a) established the Second Bank of the United States b) upheld the
doctrine of implied powers c) limited the power of the Federal Government d) reflected a strict
interpretation of the Constitution
Which of the following is an example of an expressed power of Congress a) fix minimum
wages b) define punishment for treason c) grant patents d) improve harbors
Which of the following persons was impeached? a) Richard Nixon b) William Clinton
c) Spiro Agnew d) Andrew Johnson
Which of the following is not an example of an indirect tax? a) customs duties b) excise tax
on liquor c) property tax d) excise tax on cigarettes
The legal proceeding in which a debtor’s assets are distributed among his/her creditors
because that person cannot pay debts is known as a) bankruptcy b) eminent domain
c) pauper’s oath d) capitation
Which of the following types of powers are not held by Congress? a) reserved b) inherent
c) expressed d) implied
Nearly all of Congress’ implied powers are built upon the expressed powers of taxation and
the power to a) declare war b) coin money c) regulate commerce d) borrow money
Answer “Yes” or “No” to the following questions
Does Congress have the power to raise the minimum wage to ten dollars an hour?
Does Congress have the power to exclude teenagers from benefiting from minimum wage laws?
Does Congress have powers that are not legislative in nature?
Could Congress grant the honorary title of “Your Highness” to a former First Lady?
Could Congress pass a law requiring all states except Texas and Oklahoma to pay a tax on oil?
Could Congress vote to greatly limit the number of immigrants permitted to enter the U. S.?
Could members of Congress vote themselves a large pay raise?
Can Congress vote to reduce the amount of income taxes paid by individuals?
Has a President ever been removed from office as a result of impeachment?
Does Congress have the power to establish a minimum age at which people may marry?