Article 8, Section 18 of the United States Constitution states that, “The Congress shall have power…To make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by the constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof” (Barnett 274). This implies that this particular clause extends rather than constricting the powers granted to Congress as captured in the classical opinion offered by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland. Here, the Chief Justice noted that, “Let the end be legitimate, let it be within the scope of the Constitution, and all means which are appropriate, which are plainly adapted to that end, which are not prohibited, but consistent with the letter and spirit of the Constitution, are constitutional” (Barnett 274).
More specifically, the “Necessary and Proper Clause” allows Congress to share into the responsibilities of other departments by enacting legislations, which are necessary in carrying out the powers bestowed upon the National Government. The powers that are vested in the National Government include organizing the judicial system, defining and punishing crimes, controlling the national economy, and collecting revenue or federal taxes among others. On the other hand, this provision allows Congress to delegate some legislative powers to other departments to enable efficient implementation of its own powers where appropriate (Barnett 280).
Therefore, every legislative power vested in the National Government is expanded under the “Necessary and Proper Clause”. A good example demonstrating the application of this clause involves definition of punishment and crimes. Here, it is important to note that the only powers expressly granted to Congress with regard to punishment and crimes include those related to punishing treason, felonies on the high seas, piracies, offenses against international law, and counterfeiting of securities and the United States currency. Therefore, Congress assumes legislative powers in creating, defining, and punishing different crimes and offenses in order to safeguard the interests of the Federal Government as conceded universally. The offenses that are punishable under these congressional powers can be found in Part I of Title 18 of the United States Penal Code (Barnett 319).
On the other hand, the administration of the federal penal system provides wider interpretations of the “Necessary and Proper Clause”. For instance, in United States v. Comstock, the Court majority opinion upheld the federal statute, which states that a federal prisoner can be imprisoned past his term if it happens that this prisoner would have difficulties in desisting from child molestation or any other sexually violent behavior. Here, the Court’s decision was based on a number of factors including the historic scope of the “Necessary and Proper Clause”, the reasons behind the statute’s enactment, and the historical involvement of the Federal Government in such cases. As a result, the Court indicated that the Federal Government has a long historical involvement in such cases considering that since 1949, all prisoners who have been evaluated to be incompetent or insane after serving their prison term have been put under civil commitment (Barnett 335).
Moreover, the Court found out that the rational basis for sustaining the sex offender statute is pegged on the fact that this legislation protects public interests. Furthermore, the Court indicated that this particular legislation protected state interests by allowing the transfer of incompetent or insane individuals to other state authorities who are willing to accommodate them. In addition, the Court noted that the sex offender statute is not too assuaged from Article I, which provides for the criminal laws underlying the basis for incarceration, but it is rather related to administration of the prison system in a more responsible manner (Barnett 335). Generally, this case implies that Congress can use its own powers to enact laws that protect state interests and the public at large.