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Government 12th Grade
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U. S. Constitution 3
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Congressional Powers 6
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 Congress Powers 6


Section 1:        Constitutional Powers

Section 2:        Investigations and Oversight

Section 3:        Congress and the President


Section 1:        Constitutional Powers






·        Expressed powers

·        Necessary and proper clause

·       Implied powers

·        Revenue bill

·        Appropriations bill

·        Interstate commerce

·        Impeachment


Constitutional Provisions


As discussed previously, the expressed powers of Congress described in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, are sometimes called enumerated powers.


·        The necessary and proper clause implies that Congress has the power to do whatever is “necessary and proper” to carry out its powers.


·        These implied powers have expanded Congress’ role to meet the nation’s needs. The Supreme Court has had to resolve many conflicts over the definition of “necessary and proper” legislation.


Article I, Section 9 of the constitution denies Congress several powers:


·        Congress may not suspend the writ of habeas corpus (this requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court).   According to Article One of the Constitution, the right to a writ of habeas corpus can only be suspended "in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety." Habeas corpus was suspended during the Civil War and Reconstruction, in parts of South Carolina during the fight against the Ku Klux Klan, and during the War on Terror



"11 years in Guantanamo without trial or charges"





·        Congress may not pass bills of attainder—laws that establish guilt and punish people without trial.




"In common law (our legal traditions come from England's Common Law system), bills of attainder were legislative acts that, without trial, condemned specifically designated persons or groups to death."!/articles/1/essays/62/bill-of-attainder


·        Congress may not pass ex post facto laws—they cannot make an act criminal that was legal when committed.!/articles/1/essays/63/ex-post-facto


·        Congress does not have the power to tax exports.



Why do you suppose this is?



Legislative Powers



·        Revenue bills, laws for raising money, start in the House and then go to the Senate.


Origination Clause 

" All Bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills. "

Article I, Section 7, Clause 1


What are some reasons why raising corporate income taxes might be difficult for Congress? 


What effect would raising corporate income taxes have on the economy?




·        The legislative process for appropriations bills—laws proposed to authorize spending money—has developed through usage.!/articles/1/essays/67/appropriations-clause







Attack on Bin Laden Used Stealthy Helicopter That Had Been a Secret


'Majority' of Cuts To Come From Weapons; Stealthy UAVs Likely Winners



·        Spending requests generally come from the executive branch and are presented to Congress in the president’s annual budget proposal.



·        Congress uses the “power of the purse” to regulate the economy.

·        Congress has the power to borrow to pay for government costs.


·        Congress’ money powers also include:

          the power to coin money and regulate its value, and



          the power to regulate foreign  commerce and interstate commerce, or commerce  among the states.




Would it be legal for Congress to regulate this?



·           Congress shares power with the president to make foreign and national defense policy.



U.S. Army soldiers who had been serving in Iraq return home to Joint Base Lewis McChord in Washington state, Tuesday, December 6, 2011.


·           The Constitution gives Congress power over naturalization, the process by which immigrants become citizens.!/search/Naturalization/articles/1/essays/40/naturalization


A Guide to Naturalization




·          Congress has the power to grant copyrights and patents.



Link to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office



Nonlegislative Powers


·        The Constitution requires Congress to hold a joint session to count the Electoral College votes for a new president.



·        If no candidate has a majority, the House chooses the president from the three candidates with the most electoral votes.


·        The Constitution gives Congress the power to remove any federal official from office.


To date, the Senate has conducted formal impeachment proceedings 19 times, resulting in 7 acquittals, 8 convictions, 3 dismissals, and one resignation with no further action.


William Blount, Senator

 Senate Action: January 11, 1799,  Result: expelled, charges dismissed

John Pickering, Judge

 March 12, 1804, Result: guilty, removed from office

Samuel Chase, Justice

 March 1, 1805, Result: not guilty

James H. Peck, Judge

January 31, 1831, Result: not guilty

West H. Humphreys, Judge

 June 26, 1862, Result: guilty

Andrew Johnson, President

 May 16/26, 1868, Result: not guilty

Mark H. Delahay, Judge

 no action, Result: resigned

William Belknap, Secretary of War

 August 1, 1876, Result: not guilty

Charles Swayne, Judge

 February 27, 1905, Result: not guilty

Robert Archbald, Judge

 January 13, 1913,. Result: guilty, removed

George W. English, Judge

 December 13, 1926, Result: resigned, charges dismissed

Harold Louderback, Judge

 May 24, 1933, Result: not guilty

Halsted Ritter, Judge

 April 17, 1936, Result: guilty, removed from office

Harry E. Claiborne, Judge

 October 9, 1986, Result: guilty, removed from office

Alcee Hastings, Judge

 October 20, 1989, Result: guilty, removed from office

Walter Nixon, Judge

 November 3, 1989, Result: guilty, removed from office

William J. Clinton, President

 February 12, 1999, Result: not guilty

Samuel B. Kent, Judge

 July 22, 2009, Result: resigned, case dismissed

G. Thomas Porteous, Jr., Judge

 December 8, 2010, Result: guilty, removed from office




·        The House is the chamber with power over impeachment—the formal accusation of misconduct in office.


·        If the House votes to impeach, the Senate conducts a trial. A two-thirds vote of the senators present is required to convict and remove someone from office.


·        The Senate must approve presidential appointments to office.



·        The Senate must ratify formal treaties with other nations.



·        Congress and state legislatures share the power to propose amendments to the Constitution.




Section 2:        Investigations and Oversight




·        subpoena

·        perjury

·        contempt

·        immunity

·        legislative veto


The Power to Investigate

"Pentagon releases official timeline of Benghazi attack"

·        The Founders neither granted nor denied Congress the power to conduct investigations.

·        A standing committee or a select committee may conduct investigations

·        Investigations can lead to new laws to deal with a problem, reforms in a government program, or to an official being fired.

·        Congress has several powers that help committees collect evidence.


Video link in this article below


Lawmakers get first look at Benghazi attack video




          A subpoena is a legal order that requires a person to appear or produce requested documents.

          Witnesses who do not tell the truth can be criminally prosecuted for perjury, or lying, under oath.

          Committees may also punish those who refuse to testify or otherwise will not cooperate by holding them in contempt of Congress.

          Immunity is freedom from prosecution for people whose testimony ties them to criminal acts.


What do you thing the point of view of this artist is?



IRAN - CONTRA SCANDEL - 1980's President Reagan's administration






The Iran-Contra Affair – 1986-1987


"One of the most complicated and intrigue-filled scandals in recent decades, the Iran-contra affair dominated the news for many months. It consisted of three interconnected parts: The Reagan administration sold arms to Iran, a country desperate for materiel during its lengthy war with Iraq; in exchange for the arms, Iran was to use its influence to help gain the release of Americans held hostage in Lebanon; and the arms were purchased at high prices, with the excess profits diverted to fund the Reagan-favored "contras" fighting the Sandinista government in Nicaragua." (Washington Post, 1998)




Lt. Col. Oliver North is sworn in July 7, 1987, before the congressional committee investigating the Iran-contra affair. (AP)






Legislative Oversight



Legislative oversight is the power to review executive branch activities on an ongoing basis


·        Congress requires executive agencies to report to it.


·        Congress can ask one of its support agencies to study an agency’s work.



·        Each year Congress reviews the budgets of all agencies in the executive branch.


·        For years, Congress exercised oversight power by using the legislative veto.

"Legislative Veto - A provision that allows a congressional resolution (passed by a majority of congress, but not signed by the President) to nullify a rulemaking or other action taken by an executive agency.  At one time, legislative veto provisions were relatively common, and went along with many congressional delegations of power to administrative agencies (e.g. congress would give the INS power to regulate immigration, but retain the power to overrule any of their decisions by legislative veto).  The legislative veto was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983). "



·        In 1983, the Supreme Court rule that the legislative veto was unconstitutional because it violated the separation of powers.


What constitutional concept is this?


·        In 1978, Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act. This act provided that in certain cases, Congress could demand the appointment of a special prosecutor, called the independent counsel.


What is interesting about the timing of this act?  What happened just a few years earlier?





Section 3: Congress and the President



·        national budget

·        impoundment


Cooperation and Conflict


·        The level of cooperation between Congress and the president has varied throughout history.


•In 1868, Congress passed a measure to prevent the president from removing cabinet officers without its approval. President Andrew Johnson believed that this was unconstitutional, defied the restriction, was impeached, and escaped removal by a single vote. (The president's position was later upheld by the Supreme Court.)

•In 1920, the Senate defeated President Woodrow Wilson's bid to have the United States join the League of Nations. The struggle between Wilson and Senator Henry Cabot Lodge (R-Mass., 1893-1924) marked a major shift in the center of gravity to the legislative branch.

•In 1933, President Franklin Roosevelt, boosted by Democratic gains in Congress, launched the New Deal to combat the Great Depression. This effort inaugurated a long period of executive branch activism and expansion that continued through World War II and the Cold War of the mid-20th century.

•In 1994, the overwhelming election of a Republican House and Senate marked a resurgent Congress whose struggle with the executive branch culminated in the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton.

•In 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States and the launch of a war against terror inaugurated another period of executive activism at home and abroad.

"The relationship between Congress and the executive branch changes every day."


·        The system of checks and balances gives Congress and the president the power to counteract each other.


·        Partisan politics (voting with your party - Democrats opposing Republican measures, Republicans opposing the measures of Democrats) can affect relations between the president and Congress.


·        Conflicts may also occur because the president and Congress have different timetables.



The Struggle for Power


The system of checks and balances makes it likely that the president and Congress will always compete for power.


·        In times of crisis, Congress has given extra powers to the president such as the power to declare martial law, seize property, and control transportation and communications.


·        Over the years, presidents have assumed more responsibility for planning the national budget, the yearly financial plan for the national government.


·        Congress passed the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act to increase its role in budgeting and limit the president’s ability to impound funds. Impoundment is the president’s refusal to spend money Congress has voted for a program.


·        Between 1932 and 1983 Congress used the legislative veto to negate execution actions many times.


·        The legislative veto was struck down by the Supreme Court in 1983.


·        In 1997, Congress passed the Line Item Veto Act that said if Congress could get a two-thirds vote from both the House and the Senate, it could put the line items back into a bill.


·        In 1998 the Supreme Court struck down the Line Item Veto Act.