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Latest Bill Would Make It Easier For Congress To Fight Back Against Hard-Right Supreme Court

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Democrats introduced laws Thursday that will enable a straightforward majority in Congress to override Supreme Court decisions like people who overturned the suitable to an abortion and gutted the federal government’s ability to control carbon emissions.

The Supreme Court Review Act would give Congress the authority to quickly reply to Supreme Court rulings that overturn a previously recognized constitutional right, newly interpret or reinterpret a statute, or invalidate a proposed or enacted regulation. Supreme Court Review Act bills would give you the option to pass the Senate without being subject to the chamber’s 60-vote filibuster threshold.

The laws, introduced by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) within the Senate and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) within the House, comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s hard-right turn through the first full term of the six-vote conservative supermajority installed by President Donald Trump.

On this historic term, the court ended nationwide protections for abortion care by overturning Roe v. Wade, weakened the Environmental Protection Agency’s ability to reply to climate change, further gutted state gun control laws, rolled back Miranda rights for criminal defendants, and hollowed out precedents supporting the separation of church and state. Public confidence within the court has since collapsed to historic lows.

“Six radical justices enacted a bonanza of right-wing policies through the last term, reshaping American life in wildly unpopular ways over only a matter of days,” Whitehouse said in a press release introducing the laws. “The American individuals are fed up with policymaking by unaccountable Supreme Court justices, and we’ve an answer. This vital good-government reform would check the activist Court’s rogue decisions by ensuring policymaking stays where the Structure delegated it: within the hands of the American people and their elected representatives.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced the Supreme Court Review Act with Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.). A companion bill can be introduced within the House by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.).

SUSAN WALSH via Getty Images

The bill combines elements from the Congressional Review Act, which supplies Congress fast-track authority to invalidate executive branch regulations, and the budget reconciliation process. The CRA and reconciliation are two of the few legislative mechanisms that evade the Senate’s filibuster rules and permit laws to pass by easy majority.

The Supreme Court Review Act would let Congress reply to certain Supreme Court decisions inside a set time-frame after the choice comes down. The method would require the comptroller general of the US to file a notice to Congress inside two days of a covered decision. Within the Senate, that notice could then either be referred to a relevant committee inside 10 days or to the ground with the support of 16 senators. The bill would allow the minority to reply to any laws by putting its own laws on the ground if it has the support of 40 senators.

The bill also copies the Byrd Rule utilized in the budget reconciliation process, disallowing laws introduced under the Supreme Court Review Act from including any extraneous provisions.

“This bill would allow Congress to more efficiently exercise its existing power to reply when the Court misinterprets Congressional intent or strips Americans of fundamental rights,” Cortez Masto said in a press release.

A one-page summary of the bill includes some examples of selections that may very well be overridden if it were enacted. These include the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision that overturned Roe, the choice in West Virginia v. EPA that limited the usage of the Clean Air Act to control power plant carbon emissions, the 2021 Brnovich v. DNC decision that reinterpreted elements of the Voting Rights Act, and the choice in Alabama Association of Realtors v. HHS that invalidated the Biden administration’s COVID-19 eviction moratorium.

The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Alex Padilla (Calif.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), joins a growing list of measures introduced by Democrats in response to the court’s rightward swing. The composition of the court modified dramatically after Senate Republicans blockaded President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016 and Trump subsequently appointed three justices, including one as voting within the 2020 election was underway.

Other court-curbing measures include laws so as to add 4 seats to the court, impose term limits on justices, and require justices to abide by the identical ethics and recusal laws as lower court judges. Some members, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) are asking Democratic leadership to strip the court of its jurisdiction to listen to cases on certain topics like abortion, same-sex marriage and legal contraception.

President Joe Biden has not yet endorsed any of the proposals to curb the court’s power or make it easier for Congress to reply to its rulings.

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