enumerated powers

Enumerated powers are the powers granted to the Federal government, and specifically Congress, which are mostly listed in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Namely the power “to lay and collect taxes”, duties, impost and excises, to pay debts, to provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United States, to regulate commerce with foreign Nations, to constitute tribunals inferior to the Supreme Court, to raise and maintain armed forces, to declare war, to establish a Post Office, etc. In all, the Constitution delegates 27 powers specifically to the Federal government. Clauses from Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution therefore lay out powers specific to the Congress and are oftentimes referred to as Commerce Clause (Clause 3), Necessary and Proper clause (Clause 8), General Welfare or Taxing and Spending clause (Clause 1). These clauses are very broadly interpreted and grant Congress powers that are not specifically enumerated.

In comparison, implied powers are not specifically stated in the Constitution but may be inferred from the Necessary and Proper clause (Clause 8). This provision gives Congress the right "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and other powers vested in the government of the United States". Enumerated powers must not be confused with inherent powers, which are not specifically listed in the Constitution, but grow out of the very existence of the national government. 

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]