1. The American Congress
The American federal legislature congress is bicameral. It consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate was created to protect the interests of small states and to check the radical tendencies of the lower chamber, the House of Representative. The Senate has the authority to check and correct the democratic recklessness of House and the monarchical ambition of the President.
2. Powers of the Congress
The United States of America emerged as the sole super power after demise of the USSR in the last decade of the twentieth century. The United States, being the richest and the most advanced country in the technology age, has one of the most powerful legislatures in the world. We may study the powers of the congress under two heads;
i. Slative powers; and
ii. Non-legislative powers
3. Legislative Powers
The legislative powers may be grouped into these groups
a. Delegated Powers
The delegated legislative powers are the powers, which have been specifically enumerated in the constitution. Thus, according to Section 8 of Article I of the Constitution, the Congress has the power;
i. to lay and collect taxes, duties, imports and excise, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the U.S.
ii. to borrow mony on the credits of the U.S.
iii. to regulate commerce with foreign nations and among the several states
iv. to coin money and fix the standard of weights and measures;
v. to provide for the punishment of counterfeiting the securities and currency coin of the U.S.
vi. to establish post offices and post wards;
vii. to establish a uniform rule of naturalization and uniform laws on bankruptcy throughout the United States
viii. to promote the progress of science and useful arts;
ix. to constitute Tribunals interior to the Supreme Court.
x. to defend and punish the felonies and piracies committed on the high seas, and offences agisnst the law of nations;
xi. to declare war, grant letter of marquee and reprisal and make rules concerning capture on land and water;
xii. to provide and maintain the navy;
xiii. to make rules for the Government and regulation of the land and naval forces;
xiv. to raise and support armies;
xv. to provide for calling forth the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions;
b. Implied Powers
The doctrine of implied powers was given judicial recognition in 1819 in the historic cases of Mc Culloch vs. Maryland, Chief Justice Marshall said, “The sound construction of the constitution must allow to the national legislature that discretion with respect to the means by which the powers it confers are to be carried into execution, which will enable that body to perform the high duties assigned to it in a manner most beneficial to the people”.
c. Concurrent Powers
The concurrent powers are those which may be exercise both by congress and state legislatures. The right to enact laws relating to bankrupted, the right to fix standard of weights and measures, the right to borrow money, the right to charter banks, etc, the right to promote agriculture and the right to foster education are the concurrent powers. Whenever a conflict arises in matter of concurrent power, the state laws give way to the federal laws.
d. Constitutional Amendment
Congress can initiate proposals for amendment in the constitution by thaw thirds majority but it got to be ratified by the state legislatures. The founding fathers, in order to secure state’s autonomy, gave due participation to the state in amending process.
e. Financial control
Without the approval of the congress, no tax can be raised nor any amount spent. The President prepares the budget and submits before the congress for its approval. The latter cannot only reduce the estimates regarding demands for grants, but propose an increase as well. Form this point of view; Congress is more effective than the British Parliament.
4. Non-legislative Powers
The congress also performs varied functions which, strictly speaking, are not legislative. The non-legislative functions of the Congress may be classified as follows
The congress is also an administrative body. It controls and directs the whole work of administering and enforcing its own laws. The congress provides the money without which the laws could not be executed or justice administered.
b. Selective Functions
According to the Constitution, in case no candidate gets clear cut of majority of the Elector’s votes during Presidential Election, the House of Representatives shall elect the President from amongst the three candidates with highest number of Elector’s votes. Almost similar functions are performed by the Senate I connection with the election of Vice President.
c. Judicial Powers
The House of Representatives brings a charge of impeachment against the President, Vice-President and other federal officers and the Senate sitting as a court hears the charge.
5. An Appraisal
Under the liberal judicial interpretations, the sphere of congressional legislation has been enhanced even at the cost of the state’s autonomy. The congress not only enacts laws but can also make a guideline for their execution. An Article of the constitution prescribing; to make laws necessary and proper to put into execution the foregoing, powers, in fact, paved the way for increasing the legislative powers of the Congress. At present, it sets standards of work and decides matters relating to railway and agriculture.