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U.S. Government


Federal vs. State Powers


Federal Powers

  1. Express powers: Powers that the Constitution explicitly grants the federal government. These include the powers to:

    • Collect taxes

    • Regulate interstate commerce

    • Coin money, regulate currency, set standards of weights and measures

    • Declare war

    • Raise and maintain an army and navy

  2. Implied powers: Based on the elastic clause (Art. I, § 8, cl. 5), powers considered “necessary and proper” for carrying out the enumerated (or express) powers

    • For example, in 1791, Federalists in Congress argued that the creation of a national bank was “necessary and proper” for Congress to execute its enumerated powers to coin and borrow money and regulate currency. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) confirmed Congress’s right to found this national bank.

  3. Denied powers: Powers that the Constitution explicitly denies to the federal government. These include:

    • The writ of habeas corpus cannot be suspended unless in cases of rebellion or invasion, when deemed necessary to national safety.

    • No bill of attainder or ex post facto law can be passed.

  4. “Supreme law of the land”: the Constitution and federal laws take precedence over state laws (Art. 6)


State Powers

  1. Powers reserved for the states: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people” (Tenth Amendment in the Bill of Rights)

  2. Overlapping powers: Powers allotted to both state governments and the federal government. These include:

    • The power to levy taxes

    • The power to borrow money

    • The power to charter corporations

  3. State-to-state relations:

    • Full faith and credit clause: Each state must honor other states’ public acts and records (Art. 4, § 1).

    • A citizen of one state is a citizen of every state and is entitled to all the privileges and immunities of those states (Art. 4, § 2, cl. 1).

    • Anyone who is charged with a crime in one state and escapes to another state must be returned to the state where the crime was committed (Art. 4, § 2, cl. 2).

    • Congress may admit new states to the Union, but no new states can be created within the boundaries of existing states without the approval of Congress and the state legislatures concerned (Art. 4, § 3).