Why two ‘seemingly unrelated’ Supreme Court cases underscore congressional ‘dysfunction’

Why two ‘seemingly unrelated’ Supreme Court cases underscore congressional ‘dysfunction’

In his articles for The Atlantic, Never Trump conservative David French hasn’t been shy about expressing his fears for the future of U.S. democracy — which he believes has been imperiled by former President Donald Trump and the MAGA movement. French has been a frequent guest on MSNBC, often finding some common ground with the cable news outlet’s liberal hosts and guests but also disagreeing with them at times.

French offers some more thoughts on the state of U.S. democracy in an article published by The Atlantic on July 12, discussing the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings in West Virginia v. EPA and Biden v. Texas and arguing that they underscore Congress’ “dysfunction.”

“On the last day of the Supreme Court’s most recent term,” the conservative journalist observes, “the Court released two cases that highlight a challenge to American democracy — a challenge that is the direct result of one of the Founders’ more consequential miscalculations. They granted Congress more power than any other branch of government, and they mistakenly thought Congress would possess a sense of institutional responsibility and authority. Instead, it is largely a partisan body, drained of any sense of independent civic duty, and American democracy suffers as a result.”

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French continues, “The two cases seem unrelated at first glance. One is West Virginia v. EPA, in which the Supreme Court struck down the Environmental Protection Agency’s Obama-era clean-power rule…. The second case is Biden v. Texas. The Court upheld the Biden Administration’s decision to reverse the Trump Administration’s ‘remain in Mexico’ policy, which required a small number of non-Mexican nationals who were detained at the border to wait in Mexico during their removal proceedings.”

The thing the cases have in common, according to French, is that they “both arose from serious and problematic congressional inaction.”

“In the EPA case,” French observes, “the executive branch was responding to legitimate concerns about climate change, but the executive branch is not supposed to be a lawmaking body. In the ‘remain in Mexico’ case, Congress failed to fund sufficient immigration detention facilities, rendering it impossible for the president to comply with Congress’ mandate that immigrants who are not ‘clearly and beyond a reasonable doubt’ entitled to entry ‘shall be detained.’ This left the president with the choice of releasing migrants into the country or requiring them to return to the ‘foreign territory contiguous to the United States’ from which they arrived.”

French goes on to emphasize that “these cases reflect a challenge to American democracy.”

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“The problem is simply this: Congress was intended to be the most potent branch of government,” French writes. “It is now the most dysfunctional. And it’s dysfunctional in part because the Founders did not properly predict the power of partisanship over institutional responsibility. Even worse, Congress’ dysfunction radiates to other branches of government. Both the presidency and the judiciary assume more power than they should, escalating the stakes of presidential elections and the intensity of judicial confirmations.”

Congress, French laments, “is now less an independent branch of government and much more a collection of partisan foot soldiers supporting or opposing the sitting president’s agenda.”

“Combine this partisan purpose with a closely divided country,” French writes, “and you have a formula for deadlock, and worse.”

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