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Congress’ weakness is Supreme Court’s strength

The worse the Congressional logjam grows, the stronger the role of the U.S. Supreme Court in being the interpreter of laws, according to a new study.

The report from Prof. Richard L. Hasen of the University of California, Irvine School of Law points out that, ideally, Congress and the Supreme Court engage in a “dialogue on statutory interpretation” – lawmakers pass a law, the Court interprets the law, and then Congress has the power to overrule the Court by amending the law.

But when Congress is tied up in partisan gridlock – a growing phenomenon in recent years – it becomes harder for it to serve in this function. As a result, the Court gets the final word much more often.

The increasingly partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill can have other repercussions for Congress and the Court, the study states. “Aside from the statutory interpretation dialogue, Congress interacts with the Supreme Court in other ways, including through Senate confirmation of Supreme Court judicial nominees,” Hasen observed.” The recent partisan realignment of the Supreme Court makes it more likely that a Supreme Court judicial nominee will be filibustered in the Senate, thanks to the increasing willingness of Senators to oppose nominees on ideological grounds and increased partisan polarization in the Senate.”

The study was reported in the New York Times and by the ABA Journal.

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