New Supreme Court Ruling Takes More Power Away From Congress

( As Congress continues with its infighting between the two political parties, the Supreme Court has begun to exert its power and influence over major issues that are facing our nation.

Its latest major decision, which liberals say will limit their ability to fight climate change, was a major result of a lack of action and decisiveness by members of Congress.

As the high court wrote in its decision in that case, there is not “clear congressional authorization” as outlined in the Clean Air Act, which means the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have power to do what it wants to address climate change.

Congress isn’t on a good page right now where it can respond to decisions from the Supreme Court that interpret the statutes it passes. And that’s leaving the ultimate decision-making process up to the justices on the high court, rather than in the hands of the elected lawmakers.

With Democrats holding only a slight lead in the House, and with Republicans able to block most legislation in the Senate using the filibuster rule, the power to make decisions that affect the country has shifted over to the courts.

It wasn’t always this way, though. As Harvard law professor Richard Lazarus recently commented for The New York Times:

“If you go back to the ’80s, every time the court did something Congress didn’t like, they passed a law. It was an iterative process between Congress, the agencies and the courts.”

In other words, if the Supreme Court handed down a decision that Congress wasn’t in favor of, they would simply enshrine that rule into law by passing new legislation.

A Congress of the past may have done exactly that in a situation like when the high court recently overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, which took away a woman’s federal protection to get an abortion. Now, though, with Congress so divided on the issue, it’s unlikely to wield any power at all on the issue.

As The Times’ report points out, Congress not taking action following a high court ruling isn’t a novel thing. However, it’s taken on new meaning as the court has been issuing huge rulings that are going to have monumental results in the years to come.

The ruling in the Mississippi abortion case is only one example. The high court has recently ruled on cases involving gun rights and the aforementioned ability of the EPA to combat climate change as it sees fit.

This is something that Notre Dame law professor Bruce Huber hit on when he told The Times:

“In the ’70s and ’80s, Congress was passing major legislation all the time. When something was wrong, there was a real colloquy between the court and Congress. The court would say, ‘Hey, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.’ And Congress would come back and say: ‘You’re right. We’ll fix it.’

“And the very next session, you’d get a major amendment to the Clean Air Act or the Clean Water Act.”

That’s not happening today, though, as the two parties simply don’t want to do business with each other in Congress.