Congress and the Constitution

The Commerce Clause and the Expanding Powers of Congress

Clock 90 minutes

During the first seventy years of the republic, Congress did not greatly intervene in the commercial affairs of the states. After the Civil War, Congress seized upon Article I, Section 8 (the Commerce Clause) to intervene more heavily in Americans’ economic activities. The Supreme Court approved Congress’ interpretation of the Commerce Clause and the federal government’s oversight of interstate commerce has grown since. In recent years, there has been more opposition to regulation and some in Congress have worked to decrease the level of intervention.

Founding Principles

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Federalism

The people delegate certain powers to the national government, while the states retain other powers; and the people, who authorize the states and national government, retain all freedoms not delegated to the governing bodies.

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Limited Government

Citizens are best able to pursue happiness when government is confined to those powers which protect their life, liberty, and property.

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Separation of Powers

A system of distinct powers built into the Constitution to prevent an accumulation of power in one branch.

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