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Not So Sweeping After All: The Limits of the Necessary and Proper Clause

From The Heritage Foundation:

The Necessary and Proper Clause makes things happen. To many on the left, the Necessary and Proper Clause joins the General Welfare Clause, and the Commerce Clause to form a trivium of validation for any and every expansion of government power imaginable. But, as David Engdahl explains in his Constitutional Guidance for Lawmakers essay, the Necessary and Proper Clause is not a blank check for Congress to pass anything it deems necessary or proper for America. Just as the Commerce Clause and the General Welfare Clause have limits, so too does the Necessary and Proper Clause.

After listing the 17 specific powers delegated to Congress, Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution concludes by specifying that Congress has the power “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” This lawmaking power is limited and defined by the ends for which it is delegated: “for carrying into execution the foregoing powers.” All the Necessary and Proper Clause does is to make explicit a power already implied in the grants of powers in Section 8 and elsewhere. It is the means to achieve ends. Learn more about why Necessary and Proper Clause makes things—but not just anything—happen.


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