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Congressional Powers

Congressional Powers

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Congressional Powers

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  1. Congressional Powers

  2. Where Congress gets their power • The Constitution specifically outlines what Congress can and cannot do. • A Few things Congress CANNOT do: • Create a national school system • Require citizens to vote, attend church • Abolish jury trials • Outlaw handguns • Censor the media • Congress can do only what the Constitution can do, and cannot do anything outside of what is written

  3. Powers, cont’d • Some things Congress CAN do: • Levy a tax • Issue declarations of war • Approve Presidential appointment • Fire (impeach) Federal officials • Create national holidays

  4. Types of Power • Constitution grants power it 3 specific ways: • Expressed Powers: • Written in specific wording • Implied Powers • By “reasonable deduction” of expressed powers • Inherent Powers • Through the creation of a National (Federal) Government and its bureaucracy

  5. Strict/Liberal Constructionist • Strict Constructionists • Led by Thomas Jefferson & the Anti-Federalists • Argued for States’ Rights • Can only exercise those rights that are • (1) Expressed specifically, or • (2) Implied only insomuch that they are absolutely necessary to carry out expressed powers • “The Government is best that governs the least” Understood need for nationalism Feared national overgrowth

  6. Liberal Constructionists • Led by Alexander Hamilton & the Federalists • Favored a strong central government • The liberal interpretation of powers • Ease of expansion of powers as needs arise • “The New America requires an energetic government”

  7. Changes over time • Many things can affect Constructionism • Wars/ Foreign Policy • Economic crises • National Emergencies • Popular demands • Jones’ Theory (keeping up with…) • Requiring Consensus • A general agreement • Historical consensus has been on the side of a broader government and growth of power

  8. Expressed Powers • Article I, Section 8 • 18 separate clauses, 27 different powers • Constitution is brief and ambiguous and difficult to determine legality • Meaning is determined through precedent • “The use of previous bodies’ actions to justify legal response in the current” • Can be set by legislative, executive or judicial bodies at any levels of government

  9. The Power to Tax • Perhaps the single largest failure of the Articles of Confederation and the need for a Constitution • Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 • “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” • Tax– “A charge levied by government on persons or property to raise money to meet public needs.” • Types of Tax: • Direct Tax, Protective tariff, licensure

  10. Taxation limitations • As forbidden by the Constitution: • Tax churches (1st Amendment) • Poll taxes (24th Amendment) • Can tax only for public purposes (Art. 1-8-1) • Cannot tax American exports (Art. 1-9-5) • Direct taxes apportioned among states (Art. 1-9-4) • Direct tax • Tax paid to the government by the person imposed (property tax, luxury tax) • Exceptions for Income Taxes • Wealth= the ability to pay a tax, levied by population not in proportion to the states (only exception) • Indirect Tax—tax first paid by one person/entity, then passed along to another (cigarette tax)

  11. Power to Borrow Money • Art. 1-8-2 “to borrow money on the credit of the United States” • No set Constitutional limits • No restrictions for the borrowing purpose • “Deficit Financing”– the practice of spending more than the government takes in, and borrowing the difference • Practiced to recover from Great Depression • Save for World War II • Social programs of 60s, 70s, and 80s • Fund Vietnam and Korean Wars

  12. Public Debt • Steady use of deficit spending from 1929-1999 • First surplus in Federal budget in 1999 • Public Debt—All money borrowed by the government over time and yet to be repaid, plus interest. • Federal debt in 1999-- $5.5 Trillion • Federal debt in 2005--$7.5 Trillion • Current Federal debt-- $16.5 Trillion • Debt Clock • Budget surpluses in 1999, 2000, 2001

  13. Commerce Power • The Power for Congress to regulate interstate and foreign trade (1-8-3) • Perhaps one of the most profound rights in the Constitution and most broad. • Most recognized Constitutional Congressional power that has built the new, developed nation.

  14. Gibbons v. Ogden, 1824 • First Court interpretation of the power to regulate commerce • Mickey Mouse • Ruling was popular as it broke up a monopoly • Similarly freed the railway and other transportation • Commerce constantly redefined, extends power • Far beyond Alexander Hamilton’s expectations • Gave legal basis for Civil Rights act of 1964 • Prohibits discrimination in access to or service in hotels, motels, theaters, restaurants and other public accommodations on the grounds of race, color, religion, or nationality.

  15. Expressed Limits on Commerce • (1) Cannot tax exports (1-9-5) • (2) Cannot favor the ports of one state over another (1-9-6) • (3) Cannot require vessels bound to one state to be obliged to enter, clear or pay tax in another (1-9-6) • (4) Cannot interfere with the slave trade (1-9-1) • Considered a “dead letter”, meaning it is still there, just not adhered to. • Part of the Slave-Trade Compromise of the Constitutional Convention

  16. Power to Coin Money • English currency (Shilling, Pound, Farthing) collapsed after the American Revolution • Articles of Confederation coined money, but with no backing, nor tax, it too collapsed • Each of the 13 states also coined their own money • Also, Spanish money was widely circulated • Need to create a “hard currency” • A system based on gold, silver and other metal coins • 1st Bank of the U.S. in 1971, empowered banks to issue paper notes (not recognized by the U.S.) • Congress first created a paper note in 1863, noted it as “Legal Tender”- a representative paper note that a creditor must, by law accept as payment for debts. • Rocky road to commonplace acceptance

  17. Bankruptcy Power • Art. 1-8-4 • “to establish uniform Laws on the subject of Bankruptcies throughout the United States” • Bankruptcy is the ability to be declared insolvent (insolvency)—unable to pay debts in full • Legal proceeding • Takes assets of the bankrupt and distributes among those owed • Then frees the debtor from liability • Currently, the laws are so broad, States are essentially precluded from litigation—nearly all cases are handled in Federal District Courts.