Tag Archives: Elizabeth Price Foley

Five Ways to Restore the Separation of Powers

The worst legacy of the Obama administration may be disdain for the Constitution’s separation of powers. President Obama’s actions have created dangerous stress fractures in our constitutional architecture, making it imperative that the Trump administration and Republican Congress commence immediate repairs.

The Constitution separates power in two ways: among the three branches of the federal government and between the federal government and states. As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers, separation creates “a double security” for liberty because “different governments will control each other, at the same time that each will be controlled by itself.”

The Obama administration has spurned this core constitutional principle, aggrandizing executive power at the expense of Congress and states. It has rewritten laws, disregarding its constitutional duty to faithfully execute them.

ObamaCare’s implementation provides multiple examples: delaying statutory deadlines, extending tax credits to groups Congress never included, exempting unions from fees, expanding hardship waivers beyond recognition and granting “transition relief” for preferred employers.

Mr. Obama even usurped Congress’s power of the purse, spending billions for “cost-sharing subsidies” that pay ObamaCare insurers for subsidizing deductibles and copays. Congress never appropriated money for these subsidies, so the administration shifted money appropriated for other purposes. The House sued to defend its constitutional prerogative, and in May a federal court ruled against the administration, which has appealed.

Mr. Obama also exempted five million illegal immigrants from deportation, though Congress had unambiguously declared them deportable. He waived the mandatory work requirement of the 1996 welfare reform. He redefined sexual discrimination under Title IX, forcing schools to allow transgender students to use bathrooms of their non-biological gender, and threatening to withdraw funds if colleges refuse to reduce due process protections for individuals accused of sexual assault.

The president has exhibited particular antipathy toward the Senate’s advice-and-consent duty. In Noel Canning v. NLRB (2014), the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the administration violated separation of powers by making unilateral appointments to the National Labor Relations Board while the Senate was in session. And the president unilaterally committed the nation to an unpopular nuclear deal with Iran, bypassing the Senate’s treaty ratification power.

Mr. Obama’s actions have also shattered federalism. The administration rewrote the 1970 Clean Air Act, commanding states to revamp their electricity generation and distribution infrastructure. It rewrote the 1972 Clean Water Act, claiming vast new power to regulate ditches and streams under the risible notion that they are “navigable waters.” It has refused to enforce existing federal drug laws, emboldening states to legalize marijuana.

The media and academy enabled the administration’s unconstitutional behavior because they support its policy agenda. But the Framers expected members of Congress to jealously defend congressional power against executive encroachment—even from a president of the same political party. As Madison observed, “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place.”

This principle disappeared during the past eight years. In his 2014 State of the Union address, the president vowed to implement his agenda “wherever and whenever I can” without congressional involvement—to thunderous applause by Democrats. In November 2014, Democratic Senators urged the president to vastly expand his unilateral amnesty for illegal immigrants.

The Trump administration and GOP Congress should resist the temptation to follow this Constitution-be-damned playbook. The greatest gift Republicans could give Americans is a restored separation of powers. But this cannot be accomplished by merely rescinding the Obama administration’s unconstitutional executive orders. While this is a necessary step, Congress should enact additional reforms.

First, Congress can amend the 1996 Congressional Review Act to require affirmative approval of major executive-branch regulations. The law now allows regulations to go into effect automatically if Congress does not disapprove them. The act has been used only once to overturn a regulation because it requires passage of a joint resolution of disapproval—which must be signed by the president. This requirement should be inverted: If Congress does not affirmatively approve a regulation, it never goes into effect.

Second, Congress could prohibit “Chevron deference,” in which federal courts defer to executive branch interpretations of ambiguous statutes. Chevron deference is a judge-made doctrine that has aggrandized executive power, ostensibly to implement Congress’s intent. If Congress denounces such deference, it can simultaneously reduce executive power and encourage itself to legislate with greater specificity.

Third, Congress can augment its institutional authority by expanding its contempt power. The criminal contempt statute should require the U.S. attorney to convene a grand jury upon referral by the House or Senate without exercising prosecutorial discretion. Congress should also extend the civil contempt statute to the House, not merely the Senate, and enact a new law specifying a process for using Congress’s longstanding (but rarely invoked) inherent contempt authority.

Fourth, Congress can require that all major international commitments be ratified by treaty. A statute defining the proper dividing line between treaties and executive agreements would reassert the Senate’s constitutional role, provide clarification to the judiciary, and encourage communication and negotiation between Congress and the president.

Fifth, Congress can enact a law further restricting its ability to coerce states into adopting federal policies or commanding state officials to carry them out. While the courts have ultimate say on the contours of these federalism doctrines, a law could force greater consensus and debate, provide guidelines on Congress’s use of its powers, and signal to the judiciary a reinvigorated commitment to federalism.

Restoring separation of powers is necessary and possible. It should be the highest priority of the Trump administration and Congress.

Mr. Rivkin and Ms. Foley practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington, D.C. Ms. Foley is also a professor of constitutional law at Florida International University College of Law.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/five-ways-to-restore-the-separation-of-powers-1482192048

Can Trump cut off funds for sanctuary cities? The Constitution says yes.

By David Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley

December 7, 2016, in the Los Angeles Times

But whatever one thinks about Trump’s strategy, it almost certainly would pass muster at the Supreme Court.Several cities and public universities have vowed to resist President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to deport undocumented criminals by doubling down on sanctuary policies. In response, Trump has pledged to curtail federal funding for sanctuary providers. Activists, predictably, are crying foul, and some legal scholars, such as Harvard’s Noah Feldman, have even claimed that such a response would be unconstitutional.  

Feldman and others point to New York v. United States (1992) and Printz v. United States (1997), in which the Supreme Court concluded that the federal government cannot conscript state or local officials to carry out federal law. The federal government must enforce its own laws, using federal personnel. So when state or local police arrest immigrants who are present in the country illegally, they are under no obligation to deport them, as deportation is the responsibility of the federal government alone. 

This “anti-commandeering” doctrine, however, doesn’t protect sanctuary cities or public universities — because it doesn’t apply when Congress merely requests information. For example, in Reno v. Condon (2000), the Court unanimously rejected an anti-commandeering challenge to the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which required states under certain circumstances to disclose some personal details about license holders. The court concluded that, because the DPPA requested information and “did not require state officials to assist in the enforcement of federal statutes,” it was consistent with the New York and Printz cases.

It follows that, consistent with the anti-commandeering doctrine, Congress can require state, local or university police to tell federal agents when they arrest an immigrant present in the country illegally.

It’s true that cities such as Los Angeles instruct city employees not to ask about immigration status, but they may still have access to that information. Under California law, for example, driver’s licenses issued to immigrants in the country illegally contain prominent distinguishing language stating, “federal limits apply.” Indeed, Congress could specify that licenses issued to immigrants in the country illegally must include a distinguishing feature, or they won’t be accepted for federal purposes, such as TSA airport security. Congress already has enacted the Real ID Act, which mandates that driver’s licenses display certain details.

A separate constitutional doctrine, the anti-coercion doctrine, likewise won’t shield sanctuaries. This doctrine holds that while Congress may impose conditions on receipt of federal funds, it cannot coerce states into accepting those conditions.

In the 1980s, Congress passed a law withholding 5% of highway funds from any state that refused to adopt a minimum drinking age of 21. The Supreme Court, in South Dakota v. Dole (1987), upheld it. Because highway funds are expended — in part — to ensure safe travel, the court reasoned that raising the drinking age was “relevant to the federal interest in the project and the overall objectives thereof.” More significantly, withholding 5% of federal funds wasn’t coercive because while it represented a loss of $615 million dollars, it was only 0.19% of states’ total budgets.

By contrast, in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), the Supreme Court found that Congress violated the anti-coercion doctrine. Specifically, in the Affordable Care Act, Congress withheld 100% of states’ Medicaid funding if they didn’t expand those programs. A court plurality characterized this as a coercive “gun to the head” because it involved a loss of over $233 billion dollars — more than 20% of states’ budgets.

The South Dakota and NFIB cases teach that Congress can cut off funds if the conditions imposed are relevant “to the federal interest in the project” and the threatened loss of money doesn’t amount to a “gun to the head,” defined by a substantial percentage — approaching approximately 20% — of states’ budgets.

Congress certainly could meet these standards. Many federal programs provide billions to universities and state and local law enforcement. Provided the percentage withheld didn’t approach the 20% threshold, it should be constitutional. As with the highway funds in South Dakota, these programs are designed in part to improve safety of campuses and communities. This goal would be furthered by withholding funds from cities and universities that provide sanctuary for criminals present in the country illegally. Such individuals, by definition, not only are unvetted by the federal government, but have committed crimes while here.

Whatever one’s view of the best immigration policy, it should be uniform. Some, including the Washington Post’s editorial board, have suggested that Congress should give sanctuary cities flexibility to report only those who’ve committed the most serious violent offenses. But precisely which criminals should be subject to deportation requires resolution by Congress, not each city or university.

Sanctuary policies create Balkanization on an issue with important foreign policy implications and corresponding potential for diplomatic embarrassment. As the Supreme Court affirmed in Arizona v. United States (2012), “the removal process is entrusted to the discretion of the Federal Government” because it “touch[es] on foreign relations and must be made with one voice.”

The Constitution is clear that power to determine deportation policies belongs to Congress, not states, municipalities or universities.

David Rivkin and Elizabeth Price Foley practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington, D.C. Rivkin served at the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s office during the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Foley is also a professor of constitutional law at Florida International University College of Law.

Source: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-rivkin-foley-sanctuary-city-20161207-story.html

A Win for Congress and a Setback for ObamaCare

By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. And ELIZABETH PRICE FOLEY

Sept. 10, 2015 7:46 p.m. ET

When the House of Representatives filed a lawsuit last year contesting President Obama’s implementation of ObamaCare, critics variously labeled it as “ridiculous,” “frivolous” and certain to be dismissed. Federal District Judge Rosemary Collyer apparently doesn’t agree. On Wednesday she ruled against the Obama administration, concluding that the House has standing to assert an injury to its institutional power, and that its lawsuit doesn’t involve—as the administration had asserted—a “political question” incapable of judicial resolution.

The House lawsuit involves two core allegations. First, the House contends that the executive branch has spent billions of dollars on ObamaCare’s “cost-sharing” subsidy, even though Congress hasn’t appropriated money for it. The House says the administration violated Article I, Section nine of the Constitution, which declares: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations Made by Law.”

Second, the House asserts that the administration has failed to faithfully execute ObamaCare’s employer mandate by issuing regulations lowering the percentage of employees who must be offered insurance and delaying the mandate’s effective date for two years.

The most specious but widespread objection to the lawsuit was that Congress, as an institution, is incapable of suffering an injury serious enough to establish “standing” to sue. Critics argued that, because the Supreme Court in Raines v. Byrd (1997) denied standing to a group of six congressmen who sued President Bill Clinton over his use of the line-item veto, there is no such thing as legislative standing.

But Raines never foreclosed legislative standing; it merely denied standing to six disgruntled members of Congress who had lost a political battle with their own colleagues. Raines didn’t involve a claim of institutional injury. The House lawsuit, by contrast, was authorized by a majority vote and does claim an institutional injury. In the words of Judge Collyer, the “plaintiff here is the House of Representatives, duly authorized to sue as an institution, not individual members as in Raines. . . . That important fact clearly distinguishes this case.”

Congress is not an institutional orphan, incapable of vindicating injury to its constitutional prerogatives. Indeed, just a few months ago, in Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, the Supreme Court recognized that the Arizona legislature had standing to assert its claim that a state executive commission had usurped its power to initiate redistricting. Standing existed because the Arizona legislature was “an institutional plaintiff asserting an institutional injury.”

Judge Collyer ruled that the House has standing to pursue its appropriations-related claims, but not its employer-mandate-related ones. Regarding the former, she recognized that the “genius of our Framers was to limit the Executive’s power” by reserving to Congress exclusive control over the federal purse. In her words, “Disregard for that reservation works a grievous harm on the House, which is deprived of its rightful and necessary place under our Constitution.”

The Obama administration contended that Congress could remedy its appropriations injury via “the elimination of funding” for ObamaCare. But as Judge Collyer noted, the administration was “apparently oblivious to the irony” of this argument, since a failure to appropriate money is, itself, an elimination of funding. She concluded, “Congress cannot fulfill its constitutional role if it specifically denies funding and the Executive simply finds money elsewhere without consequence.”

While Judge Collyer correctly permitted the appropriations claim to move forward, she incorrectly concluded that “the Employer-Mandate Theory is fundamentally a statutory argument” that merely asserts that the administration is “misinterpreting” ObamaCare. She was mistaken in asserting that other, private litigants are “free to sue” over such misinterpretation. Several private plaintiffs have already tried to litigate these misinterpretations, and federal courts in both the seventh and 11th circuits have held that they, too, lack standing.

When neither Congress nor private litigants have standing to challenge an executive’s unilateral rewriting of a statute, the executive possesses a dangerous, unchecked legislative power.

If the “genius of our Framers was to limit the Executive’s power,” as Judge Collyer wrote, by reserving to Congress exclusive control over the federal purse, the Founders were equally inspired in giving Congress exclusive control over legislation and obligating the president to “faithfully” execute such laws.

“The power of executing the laws,” the Supreme Court emphasized in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA (2014), “does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.” If a law has defects, fixing them lies solely within Congress’s legislative power, not with the executive branch. Disregard for this aspect of congressional power—not merely its appropriations power—also amounts to a “grievous harm on the House” sufficient for institutional standing.

As for the Obama administration’s Hail Mary claim that the House lawsuit involved a “political question” that shouldn’t be taken up by the judiciary, disputes between Congress and the executive have been decided by the courts since Marbury v. Madison in 1803. As Judge Collyer put it, “the mere fact that the House of Representatives is the plaintiff does not turn this suit into a non-justiciable ‘political’ dispute.” You could almost say the administration’s claim was ridiculous, frivolous—and, as of Wednesday, resoundingly dismissed.

Mr. Rivkin is a constitutional litigator who has served in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Ms. Foley is a constitutional law professor at Florida International University College of Law.

Source: http://www.wsj.com/articles/a-win-for-congress-and-a-setback-for-obamacare-1441928788

The Supreme Court’s bad call on Affordable Care Act

By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR., ELIZABETH PRICE FOLEY, Los Angeles Times, June 29, 2015

In King vs. Burwell, the Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act permits individuals who purchase insurance on the federal exchange to receive taxpayer subsidies. Though the King decision pleases the ACA’s ardent supporters, it undermines the rule of law, particularly the Constitution’s separation of powers.

Under Section 1401 of the ACA, tax credits are provided to individuals who purchase qualifying health insurance in an “[e]xchange established by the State under Section 1311.” Section 1311 defines an exchange as a “governmental agency or nonprofit entity that is established by a State.”

As Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent notes, one “would think the answer would be obvious” that pursuant to this clear language, subsidies are available only through state-established exchanges.

Yet the King majority ignored what the ACA actually says, in favor of what the Obama administration believes it ought to have said, effectively rewriting the language to read “exchange established by the State or federal government.”

Scalia observes that “Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State.’” Like Humpty Dumpty in Lewis Carroll’s “Through the Looking Glass,” the majority claims that when the court is asked to interpret a word, “it means just what [the court chooses] it to mean — neither more nor less.”

To reach the desired meaning, the King majority declared that “an exchange established by the State” was somehow ambiguous, enabling it to ignore the text and advance instead its vision of the ACA’s overarching purpose. But the precedent upon which the King majority relied for this contextual interpretation, FDA vs. Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corp. (2000), involved a fundamentally different situation.

In that case, a group of tobacco manufacturers challenged the Food and Drug Administration’s authority to regulate tobacco products as “medical devices” or “drugs.” The court concluded that the words “device” and “drug” did not directly address tobacco and were consequently ambiguous.

When judges take it upon themselves to “fix” a law — or to bless an executive “fix” — they diminish political accountability by encouraging Congress to be sloppy.

The court looked beyond the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, or FFDCA, for contextual clues, discovering that Congress had subsequently passed several statutes allowing the continued sale of tobacco products, while regulating their labeling and advertising. This suggested to the justices that Congress did not intend tobacco to be regulated under the FFDCA as a drug or device.

In King, by contrast, there were no subsequent statutes providing contextual clues about congressional intent. The only reliable evidence was contained in the act’s language itself. This extra-textual approach is deeply problematic for the rule of law, since discerning a statute’s meaning from its context is always a dicey proposition, necessitating judicial inquiry into inchoate matters such as the law’s “purpose.”

Ascertaining a law’s purpose from evidence outside its text is virtually impossible, given that Congress consists of 535 members, each of whom is motivated by different purposes. This is why, at least until King, the court has not resorted to contextual interpretation when the text is plain.

In the words of Palmer vs. Massachusetts (1939), contextual interpretation is a “subtle business, calling for great wariness lest what professes to be … attempted interpretation of legislation becomes legislation itself.” Yet this is exactly what happened in King: Attempted interpretation became legislation itself. By ignoring what the ACA actually says, in favor of what the King majority believes the statute ought to have said or what it thinks Congress meant to say, the court upset the entire constitutional balance.

The King majority acknowledged that the ACA is full of “inartful drafting” and was written “behind closed doors, rather than through the traditional legislative process.” It also conceded that it was passed using unusual parliamentary procedures, and “[a]s a result, the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation.”

Despite all these flaws, the majority felt compelled to save Congress, and the ACA, from its own foibles. Specifically, the King majority believed that applying the ACA’s plain meaning “would destabilize the individual insurance market in any State with a Federal Exchange, and likely create the very ‘death spirals’ that Congress designed the Act to avoid.”

Even if a loss of subsidies would have exacerbated the death spiral, courts are emphatically not in the law-writing business. Article I, Section 1 of the Constitution grants “all” lawmaking power to Congress,” not merely “some.” The job of the judiciary is to implement laws, warts and all.

When judges take it upon themselves to “fix” a law — or to bless an executive “fix” — they diminish political accountability by encouraging Congress to be sloppy. And they bypass the political process established by the Constitution’s separation of powers, arrogating to itself — and the executive — the power to amend legislation.

This leads to bad laws, bad policy outcomes and fosters the cynical belief that “law is politics.”

<em>David B. Rivkin Jr. is a constitutional litigator at BakerHostetler who served in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Elizabeth Price Foley is Of Counsel at BakerHostetler and a professor of constitutional law at Florida International University College of Law.</em>

Source: http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-0629-rivkinfoley-king-burwell-20150629-story.html

Bypassing separation of powers to “fix” sloppy laws

In King v. Burwell, the Supreme Court surprised many Court watchers, ruling six to three that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) permits individuals who buy health insurance on the federal exchange to receive taxpayer subsidies. The decision represents a decisive victory for ACA supporters, and an equally decisive loss for the rule of law. With King, the Supreme Court has signaled (again) that it is willing to “save” important laws by rewriting them, thus behaving as an all-powerful, unelected, politically insulated, unconstitutional Council of Revision.

King is the second time the Court has rescued the ACA. The first time, NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), involved a frontal assault on the constitutionality of the Act’s individual mandate and its mandatory Medicaid expansion. The five-Justice NFIB majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, saved the individual mandate by rewriting the word “penalty” to mean “tax,” and disregarding extensive legislative history indicating that Congress had intended to use its commerce power, not its taxing power.

The NFIB majority also ruled that the ACA’s mandatory Medicaid expansion violated federalism by unconstitutionally coercing states. Because the Medicaid expansion was integral to making the ACA “work,” this constitutional infirmity should have rendered the entire ACA unconstitutional pursuant to a severability analysis. But as with the individual mandate, the NFIB majority opted instead to save the ACA, transforming the Medicaid expansion from mandatory to “optional.” In the words of the four NFIB dissenters, the majority “save[d] a statute Congress did not write.”

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, King is déjà vu all over again. Once again, Chief Justice Roberts has penned a majority opinion rewriting the ACA, but with one important difference: This time, the Court’s rewrite does not even further the policy of “saving” the ACA. If the Court had ruled the other way, the ACA, while not performing well, would have remained largely intact, albeit in a less draconian form that was more respectful of states and individual liberty.

The Obama administration convinced the King majority that the loss of subsidies would trigger a “death spiral,” whereby younger and healthier individuals leave the market, causing less healthy individuals to pay ever-higher premiums. But many – if not most – young, healthy individuals have already shunned the ACA’s expensive, high-deductible coverage, opting instead to pay the less expensive individual mandate “tax.” These decisions were made, despite the availability of subsidies. Thus, while losing taxpayer subsidies obviously makes health insurance more expensive, it does not, by itself, induce an underwriting death spiral. Instead, it would be more accurate to say that it forces individuals to pay the full freight of the benefits-rich insurance mandated by the ACA.

Indeed, the majority’s desire to save the ACA from these perceived policy effects blinded it to the countervailing effects of ruling in favor of the plaintiffs. For example, while a loss of subsidies would have caused some individuals to drop insurance, most would not consequently face the individual mandate “tax,” since it does not apply when premiums exceed eight percent of income. For Justice Anthony Kennedy (who dissented in NFIB) in particular, one would think such a positive effect on individual liberty – escaping the individual mandate – would have carried some weight.

Employers’ liberty would also have been enhanced if the King majority had ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. In the thirty-four states without state-run exchanges, employers would no longer have been subjected to the employer mandate tax, since it is triggered only when an eligible employee receives a subsidy. As Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute demonstrated, ruling against the Obama administration would have freed an estimated eight million individuals and 250,000 employers from paying onerous taxes.

Individual liberty aside, the King Court’s disrespect of states is also surprising since Justice Kennedy – normally the Court’s most strident federalist – joined the majority. The King majority appears to have invoked some odd form of the “clear statement rule” to bolster its conclusion, citing the Court’s 2014 decision in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA and stating, “Whether [tax] credits are available on Federal Exchanges is thus a question of deep ‘economic and political significance’ that is central to this statutory scheme; had Congress wished to assign that question to an agency, it surely would have done so expressly.”

But as we have written before, the clear statement rule is a rule designed to protect federalism, not individuals. In every single prior instance in which the Court has invoked the clear statement rule, it has been to prevent Congress from using its enumerated powers in a manner that harms the states as states. The clear statement rule is utterly inapplicable, however, when Congress uses its power directly on citizens, as is the case with the ACA tax subsidy.

Moreover, the King majority’s decision denies states a meaningful choice regarding whether to operate a state exchange. Refusing to operate a state exchange empowered states to free many of their citizens from the Act’s onerous mandates and provided a means to voice their strong political opposition to the ACA. While the choice to operate a state exchange was a difficult one, it was a still a choice. The King majority’s invocation of the clear statement rule denies states this basic choice, using the rule not to respect federalism, but to impose a one-size-fits-all approach. By denying states a choice, the King Court has thwarted the liberty-enhancing function of federalism.

Beyond these various policy implications, however, the King decision portends frightening implications for the rule of law. As the King dissenters ominously warned, “Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is ‘established by the State.’” By ignoring what the ACA actually says, in favor of what the King majority believes the statute ought to have said, or what it thinks Congress meant to say, the Court upset the entire constitutional balance. Yet ironically, the King majority invoked Marbury v. Madison and declared that a court’s proper role was to “to say what the law is.” While this is a correct recitation of the proper role of the judiciary in a constitutional republic, it is sadly not the role the King Court played.

Courts are emphatically not in the law-writing business. The King majority confessed that “the Act does not reflect the type of care and deliberation that one might expect of such significant legislation” and that “the context and structure of the Act compel us to depart from what would otherwise be the most natural reading of the pertinent statutory phrase.”

But by departing from the “natural reading” of a law that is patently poorly drafted, the Court has short-circuited the entire political process. When judges take it upon themselves to “fix” broken legislation like the ACA, they diminish political accountability by encouraging Congress to be sloppy when drafting legislation. And when it comes to the quality of legislating, judicially drafted “legislation” is always worse than even hastily drafted congressional statutes.

Moreover, when faced with a poorly drafted law, the executive branch has every incentive to amend laws unilaterally, rather than working with Congress to amend them. It may be expedient for presidents to issue regulations pretending legislation says whatever the president wants it to say, but such de facto executive-lawmaking inherently lacks the deliberation and compromise that permeates the legislative process.

When the Supreme Court conflates law interpretation with lawmaking – as it has done in King – it diminishes courts’ independence, undermines their legitimacy, and destroys the ability to have judicial decisions heeded by the two political branches. According to Gallup, trust in government is at its lowest since the Nixon years, with only twenty-eight percent of Americans having a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the legislative branch, and only forty-three percent in the executive branch. The judicial branch still fares better, at sixty-one percent confidence, but that, too, is historically low. By rewriting the ACA’s plain language simply because the stakes were high, the Court can expect a further erosion of the confidence of the American people. Indeed, one of the political left’s defining mantras is that “law is politics.” The decision unfortunately both illustrates and amplifies this belief.

Now that the Court has fixed the ACA (again), the political branches can relax. There is no need to start working together to amend the law and engage in the back-and-forth art of political compromise. While this may be good news for the president and members of Congress who were gearing up for an intense round of political chicken, it is horrible news for the American people and the Constitution.

When a law is hastily enacted and consequently has flaws, it is supposed to be amended by Congress. Judges are not supposed to engage in sophistic contortions to find “ambiguity” in their quest to justify rewriting laws. By bypassing the political process this way, the Supreme Court in King has bypassed the Constitution itself.

<em>David B. Rivkin, Jr. is a constitutional litigator at BakerHostetler, LLP, who served in the Justice Department and the White House Counsel’s Office in the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. Elizabeth Price Foley is Of Counsel at BakerHostetler and a professor of constitutional law at Florida International University College of Law.</em>

Source: http://www.scotusblog.com/2015/06/symposium-bypassing-separation-of-powers-to-fix-sloppy-laws/

Hillary’s Unlawful Plan to Overrule Voter ID Laws

By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. and ELIZABETH PRICE FOLEY
June 11, 2015 7:26 p.m. ET

Declaring that Republican-controlled states have “systematically and deliberately” tried to “disempower and disenfranchise” voters, Hillary Clinton has called for a sweeping expansion of federal involvement in elections. In a speech last week in Houston, laying out what promises to be a major campaign theme, Mrs. Clinton called for automatic voter registration at age 18, a 20-day early-voting period and a maximum 30-minute wait period to vote.

She has also endorsed the idea of a federal law permitting convicted felons to vote and allowing individuals, such as students, who reside in one state to vote in another. All of these federal mandates would augment and make more onerous an unconstitutional election-regulating federal statute known as the “Motor Voter” law enacted during her husband’s White House tenure.

A federal takeover of election laws—and rolling back state voter-ID laws intended to discourage election fraud—is a high priority for progressives. The billionaire financier George Soros reportedly has pledged $5 million to bankroll legal challenges to laws like those that Mrs. Clinton decries. Part of the effort is intended simply to galvanize the Democratic base by stoking a sense of grievance, but the strategy should be taken seriously—and rebutted as unconstitutional.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate federal elections, not state ones. It also distinguishes between the regulation of presidential versus congressional elections. Specifically, under Article I, Section 4—the Elections Clause—while the states have primary responsibility for regulating congressional elections, Congress can pre-empt their rules by regulating “times, places and manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives,” except that Congress cannot regulate the “places of chusing [sic] Senators.”

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Gay Rights, Religious Freedom, and the Law

By DAVID B. RIVKIN JR. And ELIZABETH PRICE FOLEY, April 9, 2015 6:53 p.m. ET

Debates about the Indiana and Arkansas Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, or RFRAs, have regrettably pitted religious freedom against gay rights. Critics claim the laws provide a license to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) individuals. But this criticism shouldn’t be aimed at the religious-freedom laws, which don’t license discrimination based on sexual orientation or anything else.

Those wanting to advance LGBT rights should focus on enacting laws that bar discrimination. If there is a legal “license” to discriminate based on sexual orientation, it is because few jurisdictions today provide protection against such discrimination, or because the Constitution may immunize such behavior in certain circumstances.

There is no federal law prohibiting private discrimination based on sexual orientation. An executive order by President Obama in 2014 bans such discrimination only for federal workers and contractors. About 20 states and some municipalities prohibit sexual-orientation discrimination in workplaces and public accommodations. But the majority of states still don’t proscribe discrimination based on sexual orientation, though discrimination based on race, gender, ethnicity or national origin is banned.

The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed by overwhelming bipartisan majorities and signed by President Clinton in 1993. It represented a backlash against the Supreme Court’s 1990 decision in Employment Division v. Smith. That decision held that the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause doesn’t allow a religious exemption from laws of general applicability—e.g., compulsory military service, or prohibitions on drug use or animal cruelty—even if those laws substantially burden religious exercise.

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