Necessary and Proper Clause

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The Necessary and Proper Clause refers to Clause 18 under Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. It reads that Congress has the legislative power “to make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.” The Necessary and Proper Clause—also sometimes called the Elastic Clause, Coefficient Clause, or Basket Clause—concludes Section 8’s list of enumerated powers by vesting in Congress the authority to use all means “necessary and proper” to execute those powers.

Since the landmark Supreme Court case of McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), this clause of the Constitution has been interpreted as giving implied powers to Congress in addition to enumerated powers. With a unanimous decision, the Court held that Congress has an implied power to establish a bank, since a bank is a proper and suitable instrument to aid in Congress’ enumerated power to tax and spend. This decision established the scope of the federal government’s power and supremacy over the states.

[Last updated in July of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]