A list of powers granted to the U.S. Congress can be found in Article I Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. These are sometimes called Delegated Powers or Enumerated Powers. Most of these congressional powers can be divided into four categories: monetary, commercial, governing and war powers. Looking at several examples from each of these categories will help to provide an overview of the powers given to the U.S. Congress. In Article I Section 9, the U.S. Constitution also limits the power of the U.S. Congress to help provide a balance of powers between the different branches of government.
The U.S. Congress is given the power to tax the American people to pay off debts, provide national defense and provide for the “general Welfare of the United States.” The Constitution awards to the U.S. Congress a currency monopoly by outlawing alternative currencies and allowing the U.S. Congress to print or mint money and then regulate its value.
The U.S. Constitution gives the U.S. Congress the authority to regulate commerce between the states. Regulation of commerce includes the setting up of post offices, providing for copyrights and patents and determining the standard weights and measures to be used in commercial transactions. The U.S. Constitution also says that the U.S. Congress is responsible for regulating commerce with foreign countries and with Native Americans.
The U.S. Constitution gives the U.S. Congress jurisdiction over several different properties and territories of the U.S. government. For example, it allows the U.S. Congress to govern the affairs of the nation’s capital in Washington D.C. The U.S. Constitution also gives the U.S. Congress jurisdiction over any additional territorial governments that are set up in the future.
Military and War
The U.S. Congress has the power to raise and support the military – both an army and navy. However, the U.S. Constitution forbids long-term spending projects in the military, limiting appropriations of money to projects of two years or less. The power to declare foreign wars is given to the U.S. Congress; the President is the commander of the country’s military forces after the congressional declaration of war. It is the U.S. Congress that defines the penalties for crimes committed on the high seas. The U.S. Congress also has the responsibility to provide for the training, support and organizing of the internal Militia, which has the role of executing national laws and suppressing insurrections.
Limits on Congressional Power
Article I Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution expressly prohibits the U.S. Congress from exercising certain powers. For example, it forbids the U.S. Congress from suspending the writ of Habeus Corpus and prohibits a direct tax on the American people. It does not allow the U.S. Congress to award favored status to individual states in its commercial regulations.