General Welfare Clause

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The general welfare clause allows Congress to "lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the taxes debts and provided for the common defense and general welfare of the United States." Congress is permitted to promote the general welfare in its use of spending power consistent with the Enumerated Powers.[1]

Constitutional Convention

During the 5 month Constitutional Convention, delegate Oliver Ellsworth noted that the only item considered under the "general welfare" was national security. Items of a non-general nature should be handled by the states. He said:

The Natl. Govt. could not descend to the local objects on which this depended. It could only embrace objects of a general nature.[2]


  1. U.S Government and Politics
  2. Madison Debates June 30