CRS Annotated Constitution
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Definition of Punishment and Crimes
Although the only crimes which Congress is expressly authorized to punish are piracies, felonies on the high seas, offenses against the law of nations, treason and counterfeiting of the securities and current coin of the United States, its power to create, define, and punish crimes and offenses whenever necessary to effectuate the objects of the Federal Government is universally conceded.1650 Illustrative of the offenses which have been punished under this power are the alteration of registered bonds,1651 the bringing of counterfeit bonds into the country,1652 conspiracy to injure prisoners in custody of a United States marshal,1653 impersonation of a federal officer with intent to defraud,1654 conspiracy to injure a citizen in the free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured by the Constitution or laws of the United States,1655 the receipt by Government officials of contributions from Government employees for political purposes,1656 advocating the overthrow of the Government by force.1657 Part I of Title 18 of the United States Code comprises more than 500 sections defining penal offenses against the United States.1658
Chartering of Banks
As an appropriate means for executing “the great powers, to lay and collect taxes; to borrow money; to regulate commerce; to declare and conduct a war; and to raise and support armies . . . ,” Congress may incorporate banks and kindred institutions.1659 [p.342]Moreover, it may confer upon them private powers, which, standing alone, have no relation to the functions of the Federal Government, if those privileges are essential to the effective operation of such corporations.1660 Where necessary to meet the competition of state banks, Congress may authorize national banks to perform fiduciary functions, even though, apart from the competitive situation, federal instrumentalities might not be permitted to engage in such business.1661 The Court will not undertake to assess the relative importance of the public and private functions of a financial institution Congress has seen fit to create. It sustained the act setting up the Federal Farm Loan Banks to provide funds for mortgage loans on agricultural land against the contention that the right of the Secretary of the Treasury, which he had not exercised, to use these banks as depositories of public funds, was merely a pretext for chartering those banks for private purposes.1662
Reinforced by the necessary and proper clause, the powers “‘to lay and collect taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States,’ and ‘to borrow money on the credit of the United States and to coin money and regulate the value thereon . . . ,”’1663 have been held to give Congress virtually complete control over money and currency. A prohibitive tax on the notes of state banks,1664 the issuance of treasury notes impressed with the quality of legal tender in payment of private debts1665 and the abrogation of clauses in private contracts, which called for payment in gold coin,1666 were sustained as appropriate measures for carrying into effect some or all of the foregoing powers.
Power to Charter Corporations
In addition to the creation of banks, Congress has been held to have authority to charter a railroad corporation,1667 or a corporation to construct an interstate bridge,1668 as instrumentalities[p.343]for promoting commerce among the States, and to create corporations to manufacture aircraft1669 or merchant vessels1670 as incidental to the war power.
Courts and Judicial Proceedings
Inasmuch as the Constitution “delineated only the great outlines of the judicial power . . . , leaving the details to Congress, . . . [t]he distribution and appropriate exercise of the judicial power must . . . be made by laws passed by Congress. . . .”1671 As a necessary and proper provision for the exercise of the jurisdiction conferred by Article III, Sec. 2, Congress may direct the removal from a state to a federal court of a criminal prosecution against a federal officer for acts done under color of federal law,1672 and may authorize the removal before trial of civil cases arising under the laws of the United States.1673 It may prescribe the effect to be given to judicial proceedings of the federal courts1674 and may make all laws necessary for carrying into execution the judgments of federal courts.1675 When a territory is admitted as a State, Congress may designate the court to which the records of the territorial courts shall be transferred and may prescribe the mode for enforcement and review of judgments rendered by those courts.1676 In the exercise of other powers conferred by the Constitution, apart from Article III, Congress may create legislative courts and “clothe them with functions deemed essential or helpful in carrying those powers into execution.”1677
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