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How has the Elastic Clause been used?

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Quick Answer

The Annenberg Classroom states that the "elastic clause" of the U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to create any laws required to carry out the responsibilities that are specifically assigned to Congress in Article I, Section 8 of that document. The clause, which comes at the end of that section, has been used several times since it was established, according to the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law.

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The UMKC School of Law identifies an early Supreme Court case, McCulloch vs. Maryland, as an example of the Court approving of congressional use of the elastic clause. The justices found that Congress had the authority to create a national bank in order to carry out the constitutional powers of borrowing money and creating taxes.

The Chicago-Kent College of Law cites the 1824 Supreme Court case Gibbons vs. Ogden as another example of Congress successfully implementing the elastic clause. The Court decided that, since the Constitution gave Congress the power to regulate interstate trade, it also had the implied power to control interstate transportation.

The 2010 Supreme Court case U.S. vs. Comstock is also described by the UMKC School of Law in regards to the elastic clause. A majority of the Court supported a congressional law that allowed the continued detention of sexual offenders who posed a threat after they had completed their prison terms. The Court decision acknowledged that the law was several steps away from the constitutional powers specifically granted to Congress.

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