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Wed Dec 2, 2020, 10:44 AM

The Supreme Court Wants to Revive a Doctrine That Would Paralyze Biden's Administration [View all]

It could cripple even the most basic government functions.

Joe Biden promised us an FDR-sized presidency—starting with bold action to halt the spread of COVID-19, end the worst economic downturn in decades, and stop the climate crisis. Biden could use regulation and executive action to move quickly to decarbonize the economy, cancel student loan debt, and raise wages. But a Biden administration has an even bigger problem than two long-shot special elections in Georgia: the new 6–3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court may soon burn down the federal government’s regulatory powers.

At least five conservative justices have signaled that they are eager to revive the “non-delegation doctrine,” the constitutional principle that Congress can’t give (“delegate”) too much lawmaking power to the executive branch. On paper, the rule requires Congress, when delegating power to an agency, to articulate an “intelligible principle” (like air pollution regulation needed “to protect public health”) to guide the agency’s exercise of that power. But in practice, the nondelegation doctrine is effectively dead. The court has only struck down two statutes on nondelegation grounds—and none since 1935.

Today, most of the government’s work is done through the “administrative state,” the administrative agencies and offices, like the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Education, which issue regulations and enforce laws. Congress doesn’t have the capacity to pass laws that nimbly address complex, technical, and ever-changing problems like air pollution, COVID-19 exposure in workplaces, drug testing, and the disposal of nuclear waste. So Congress tasks agencies staffed with scientists and other specialists to craft regulations that directly address those problems. This division of responsibility—Congress legislates policy goals and agencies implement them effectively—is the foundation of functional government.


Government doesn’t work without the administrative state. But that’s sort of the point. The conservative justices have long been hostile to regulation and executive action. And now they may finally have the votes to bring virtually any regulation to a halt. At least five justices are ready to drop a 1,000-pound anvil on any Biden administration rule that displeases them.


If he doesn't want to return to the Gilded Age, Biden will have to pack the SCOTUS - and not just with moderates. McConnell would block every nominee in the Senate unless they are rightwing extremists. There is so much riding on the GA Senate runoffs.

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Reply The Supreme Court Wants to Revive a Doctrine That Would Paralyze Biden's Administration [View all]
Lasher Dec 2020 OP
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