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What might have happened to the ability of Congress to govern if the Framers had not...

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qu950827 | Honors

Posted March 21, 2013 at 11:47 AM via web

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What might have happened to the ability of Congress to govern if the Framers had not included the elastic clause among its enumerated powers? 

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted March 21, 2013 at 1:18 PM (Answer #1)

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It is likely that Congress would have had much less power to govern if the elastic clause had not been included in the Constitution.  It is possible that the Supreme Court would still have interpreted the enumerated powers very broadly, but it might not have done so.

Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution spells out Congress’s enumerated powers.  The list of these powers is rather short.  However, the Congress is also given the power to enact any laws that are “necessary and proper” for executing the enumerated powers.  By giving Congress this power the Constitution allowed it to enact laws in many more areas than it otherwise might have.

For example, there is nothing in the enumerated powers that says that Congress can prevent a privately owned restaurant from discriminating against people on the basis of race.  However, the Supreme Court has ruled that the Commerce Clause, which gives the Congress power to “regulate Commerce … among the several States,” allows the Congress to ban racial discrimination since privately owned establishments are involved in interstate commerce.

By allowing the Congress to do things like that which are not enumerated, the elastic clause allows Congress to govern in a broad variety of areas.  Without this clause, Congress would have not been able to govern the country in as many ways as it now does.  We would have much less of a federal government had it not been for the elastic clause.

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