In American constitutional law, there is a well-recognized principle stating that the government has all the powers not forbidden to it by the national or state Constitution.
In American constitutional law, expressed powers are all the powers explicitly listed in the Constitution. Sometimes they are also called delegated or enumerated powers.
The federal government is also considered by many constitutional experts to have many powers that are not expressly forbidden by the constitution. These are called implied powers.
Expressed Powers Definition
The expressed powers (also known as enumerated, explicit, or delegated powers) of the U.S. Congress are the powers granted to the federal government of the U.S. by the Constitution.
Most expressed powers are found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and include the power to lay and collect taxes, regulate commerce, declare war, and so on (U.S. Const.; Bardes et al., 2018; Gardbaum, 2012).
Other expressed powers are listed in Article III, Article IV, and various Amendments (XVI and XX, for example).
One example of expressed powers of Congress is the power to lay and collect taxes. Congress has the power to impose an income tax on individuals and businesses. Income tax is a tax on the money that individuals and businesses earn from various sources, such as wages, salaries, investments, etc. Income tax funds a wide range of government programs and services, such as national defense, education, healthcare, and social security.
Congress has the authority to determine the rate at which the income tax is imposed. Congress can also pass laws to exempt certain types of income from the tax or to provide deductions or credits to reduce the tax individuals and businesses have to pay.
Overall, the power to lay and collect taxes is an important tool that allows Congress to raise the necessary funds to pay for the debts and expenses of the federal government and to fund the programs and services that are necessary for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.
There are many other expressed powers listed in the Constitution. What follows is a complete list of such powers.
What About Implied Powers?
Implied powers are powers that are not explicitly enumerated in the Constitution but are necessary and proper for Congress to carry out its expressed powers.
These powers are derived from the Necessary and Proper Clause, which is found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8).
This Clause often serves as justification for the implied powers of the US Congress. Using the Necessary and Proper Clause, Congress can make the argument that new powers are necessary for the proper running of the country even if they were not originally included in the Constitution.
For example, Congress has the power to regulate interstate commerce, which is an expressed power. However, to effectively regulate interstate commerce, Congress may need to pass laws that regulate certain activities within the states, such as the production and sale of goods.
This power to regulate activities within the states is not granted to Congress in the Constitution but is implied as a necessary and proper means of carrying out Congress’s expressed power to regulate interstate commerce.
Expressed Powers Examples
According to Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, the Congress shall have the power:
- “To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 1).
- “To borrow Money on the credit of the United States” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 2).
- “To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 3).
- “To establish a uniform Rule of Naturalization, and uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 4).
- “To coin Money, regulate the Value thereof, and of foreign Coin, and fix the Standard of Weights and Measures” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 5).
- “To provide for the Punishment of counterfeiting the Securities and current coin of the United States” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 6).
- “To establish Post Offices and post Roads” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 7).
- “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” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 8).
- “To constitute Tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 9).
- “To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 10).
- “To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 11).
- “To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 12).
- “To provide and maintain a Navy” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 13).
- “To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 14).
- “To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 15).
- “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” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 16).
- “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” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 17).
- “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” (U.S. Const. art. I, § 8, cl. 18).
According to Articles III and IV, the Congress shall have the 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 attainted” (U.S. Const. art. III, § 3).
- “To dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State” (U.S. Const. art. IV, § 3).
According to Amendment XVI, the Congress shall have the power:
- “To lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration” (U.S. Const. amend. XVI).
According to Amendment XX:
- “The Congress may by law provide for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the House of Representatives may choose a President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them, and for the case of the death of any of the persons from whom the Senate may choose a Vice President whenever the right of choice shall have devolved upon them” (U.S. Const. amend. XX).
Several other Amendments grant Congress the power of enforcement. The Congress may enforce the following Amendments: XIII, XIV, XV, XIX, XXIII, XXIV, and XXVI.
The expressed powers of Congress are those granted to Congress in the Constitution of the United States. Most of these are found in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and include the power to lay and collect taxes, regulate commerce, establish Post Offices, and so on.
Bardes, B. A., Shelley, M. C., & Schmidt, S. W. (2018). American Government and Politics Today: The Essentials, Enhanced. Cengage Learning.
Gardbaum, S. (2012). Congress’s Power to Preempt the States. Pepperdine Law Review, 33(1). https://digitalcommons.pepperdine.edu/plr/vol33/iss1/4 U.S. Const.