Enumerated powers are those that the U.S. Constitution has specifically granted to the three branches of government -- the Executive, Judicial, and Legislative units of the government. Any authority that the Constitution enumerates to one of the three federal government branches overrides any powers the individual states may have, according to Lawyers.com. Moreover, the principle of enumerated powers suggests that no branch may usurp the power the Constitution has delegated to another branch. For instance, the Supreme Court cannot pass laws; they can only interpret and rule on them.
Article 2 of the Constitution has given the head of the Executive Branch, the president, the authority to enforce the laws Congress has passed. He has the power to sign or veto any bills passed by Congress. He may recommend the selection of each of the heads, or secretaries, of the 15 governmental governmental departments. These 15 people are known as the Cabinet. He is the civilian commander in chief of the armed forces. It is he who decides to deploy troops to foreign soil. He also may issue executive orders, and he may issue pardons or clemencies for federal crimes.
According to Article 1 of the Constitution, among Congress's enumerated powers are to mint money, borrow it from foreign lands, and to propose a budget for a given fiscal year. The body also has the power to regulate trade with other nations, and to fix the standard of measurements that we will use in the nation -- be it the metric system or the English system with which Americans are familiar, based on feet and inches. It also has the authority to declare war, and to provide for the maintenance of a navy. Moreover, the Constitution also has granted Congress the right to promote and protect the arts and sciences by making copyright, trademark and patent laws.
The Judicial branch has three main parts -- the District Court, the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. This branch of government is constitutionally limited to hearing only federal cases in which someone has violated a federal law, committed a crime on federal property, or stands accused of treason against the United States. The job of the judicial arm of the U.S. government is to interpret the law in these matters.
Checks and Balances
To avoid the danger of one branch of government becoming too powerful, the framers of the Constitution instituted checks and balances on each of the three groups. For instance, Congress can introduce and vote on bills, but the president can check bills that both the House and Senate have passed, by vetoing them. If Congress has enough votes to do so, it can also override the veto, and the bill still becomes law without his signature. The judicial branch, in turn, can declare the legislation that Congress has just passed unconstitutional. Moreover, while the president may express his desire for a certain individual to become secretary of state, it is Congress that must confirm the person for the position. In addition, if the legislative branch is displeased with the president's performance, or deems that he has broken the law, it has the power to begin impeachment proceedings against him, and he can lose his job upon conviction.
- Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images