Gridlock in Congress Amplifies Power of the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON — On the last day of a turbulent term that included rulings on what the Constitution has to say about abortion, guns and religion, the Supreme Court issued another sort of decision, one that turned on the words of the Clean Air Act.

Without “clear congressional authorization,” the court said, the Environmental Protection Agency was powerless to aggressively address climate change. In years past, that might have been the start of a dialogue with Congress, which after all has the last word on what statutes mean, because it can always pass new ones.

But thanks to legislative gridlock, Congress very seldom responds these days to Supreme Court decisions interpreting its statutes — and that means the balance of power between the branches has shifted, with the justices ascendant.

The consequences have been especially stark in Supreme Court rulings on global emergencies like climate change and the coronavirus pandemic, but the phenomenon is a general one. Congress has largely fallen silent as a partisan stalemate has gripped Capitol Hill, aggravated by the increased use of the filibuster, which has blocked almost all major legislation in an evenly divided Senate. The upshot is a more dominant court.

It was not always so.

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

Click here to read more.
Source: MSN