The Expressed Powers
Most of Congress's expressed powers are in Section 8 of Article I of the Consitution. Section 8 lists 27 congressional powers. Som of the most important powers are shown below.

Money: Tax
Coin Money
Borrow Money
Set Bankruptcy

Commerce: Regulate Interstate Commerce
Regulate International Trade

Defense: Declare War
Raise and Support Armies
Provide and maintain a Navy
Call Forth the Militia to Execute Federal Laws
Organize, Arm, and Discipline the Militia

Regulation: Set Rules for Naturalization
Establish and Maintain a Postal Service
Provide Copyrights and Patents
Set Weight and Measures Standards

Territory: Acquire Lands through Eminent Domain
Manage and Sell Federal Lands
Have Control over the District of Colombia and Other Federal Territories

Judicial: Set Up Federal Courts
Decide and Punish for Federal Crimes

The Taxing Power
Congress has the power to tax. A tax is a charge the government has people pay to meet public expenses. It can only collect taxes "to pay the debts, and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States.

Tax-collecting cannot go against other parts of the Constitution. For example, Congress cannot put a tax on churches. This is because such a tax would violate another part of the Constitution- the 1st Amendment, which allows freedom of religion.

Taxes make up over 90 percent of all the government's income. Some of the taxes are direct taxes. These are taxes paid directly by the person who is taxed. The income tax is a direct tax. So is a tax on land and buildings. Other taxes are called indirect taxes. These are taxes paid by one person but then passed on to another. The cigarette tax is an example. The tobacco company first pays the tax to the U.S. Treasury. Then the company passes the cost of the tax on to each person who buys cigarettes.

The Borrowing Power

The Constitution allows Congress "to borrow money on the credit of the United States." The government usually spends more than it takes in each year. It borrows the difference.

The Commerce Power

Congress has the commerce power, or the power to regulate trade. The Constitution says the Congress has the power "to regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes."

An 1824 Supreme Court decision, Gibbons v. Ogden. broadened the definition of commerce. The Court ruled against those who narrowlydefined it as the buying and selling of goods. Instead the Court recognized that "commerce" also includes transportation and other ways people interact.

Other parts of the Constitution limit the use of the commerce power. Congress cannot tax exports, or goods sold to other countries. It cannot use its commerce power to favor one State over others.

The Currency Power

Another power guaranteed to Congress is the power "to establish...uniform laws on the subject of bankruptcies." A bankrupt person iis one found by a court to be unable to pay his or her debts (bills). Bankruptcy is the legal process that gives what money the bankrupt person has or can raise to the people he or she owes. Most of these cases are heard in federal district courts.

Foreign Affairs and Defense Powers

The field of foreign affairs gives the National Government its greatest powers. Eight of the Congress's powers in Article I, Section 8 deal with war and the country's defense. However, the Constitution makes it clear that Congress shares these powers with the President. The President is commander in chief of all the country's armed forces. But Congress has the power to declare war. It also can organize and support troops on land and at sea.

Other Powers of Congress

Naturalization- Another of Congress's important powers is making laws about new citizens. Neutralization is the process by which people from one country becomes citizens of another.

Post Office-. Congress also can "establish post offices." Congress has used this power to pass laws against postal crimes. Using the mail to cheat someone is a postal crime. Both Congress and the States can decide what cannot be sent through the mail.

Copyrights and Patents. The Constitution also charges Congress "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." This is done, in part, through copyright laws. A copyright is the exclusive right of an author to reproduce, publish, and sell his or her work. Today, copyright lasts for the author's life plus 50 years. The special rights of inventors are protected by patents. A patent gives an inventor the right to make, use, or sell "any new and useful art, machine, manufactured......or any new and useful improvement." Right now, patents last for 17 years.

Weight and Measures-. Another expressed power is the power to "fix the standards of weight and measures." This ensures, for example, that a pound will weigh the same in all states.

Federal Lands.-The Constitution also gives Congress power to acquire, sell, and manage certain federal lands, such as post offices, prisons, and parks. The government gets some property by buying it or receiving it as a gift. It also can get property by eminent domain. This is the power to take private property for public use. People may need to give up their homes, for example, when a new highway is being built through their land.

Federal Courts.- Within the checks and balances system, Congress has the power to set up federal courts lower than the Supreme Court. It can also decide what are federal crimes and how violators should be punished.

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