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The Constitutional Basis of Federalism

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The U.S. Constitution does not use the term federalism, nor does it provide extensive details about the federal system. Nevertheless, the framers helped created a federalist system in the United States, particularly in the ways the Constitution allocates power.

The National Government

Article VI of the Constitution declares that the Constitution and any laws passed under it form the “supreme Law of the Land” in a passage called the supremacy clause. This clause implies that the national government has authority over the state governments.

The Constitution grants the national government several different kinds of powers and prohibits it from taking certain actions. The Constitution outlines four major types of power: enumerated, implied, inherent, and prohibited.



Key Clause



Enumerated (expressed) Article I, Section 8 Powers explicitly granted to Congress Declare war, coin money, levy taxes, regulate interstate commerce
Implied Necessary and proper (Article I, Section 8) Powers that Congress has assumed in order to better do its job Regulate telecommunications, build interstate highways
Inherent Preamble Powers inherent to a sovereign nation Defend itself from foreign and domestic enemies
Prohibited Article I, Section 9 Powers prohibited to the national government Suspend the writ of habeas corpus, tax exports

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