Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Do-Nothing Congress Spawns Do-It-All Court

Was yesterday’s decision a tipping point? The Supreme Court’s casual 5-4 butchering of the 1965 Voting Rights Act has awakened the entire political spectrum to the bald fact that, in the face of a President neutered by Congress, John Roberts is running the country.

Suddenly everyone in the House from John Lewis to Eric Cantor sounds the alarm on the Chief Justice’s usurping.

"My experience with John Lewis in Selma earlier this year,” says Cantor, “was a profound experience that demonstrated the fortitude it took to advance civil rights and ensure equal protection for all. I'm hopeful Congress will put politics aside, as we did on that trip, and find a responsible path forward that ensures that the sacred obligation of voting in this country remains protected."

Translation: The Tea Party may love the Roberts Court but isn’t ready to roll over and play dead for the judicial posse.

"Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the VRA," Ruth Bader Ginsburg writes in her dissent.

The universal outrage arouses hope that the Justices’ hubris may do more to break Congress’ logjam than any amount of Presidential pleading and sidestepping with executive orders.

A New York Times editorial notes: “The future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 now lies in the hands of President Obama and Congress. If we had a federal government that was not paralyzed by partisanship, this ruling would serve as an inspiration to take action. Congressional Democrats would quickly prepare a more expansive formula, and the Republicans who voted for the old formula just seven years ago would support the new one.”

If the other two branches respond to such “inspiration,” it could mark a step away from the Roberts Court takeover of the government.

Update: In its ruling striking down the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, the Court shows its only alternative to Roberts’ one-man rule: Anthony Kennedy’s swing vote with the liberal (and women’s) minority of Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayer and Kagan.

On issues of race, the Chief Justice has a lock but gender is something else as long as Kennedy retains his ability to enrage Scalia.

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