Ramesh Ponnuru: Supreme Court liberals rein in Obama

June 28, 2014 

Much has been made of the U.S. Supreme Court slapping down the Barack Obama administration unanimously Thursday — twice.

It ruled that the administration acted unconstitutionally by making recess appointments when Congress had not said it was in recess. And it unanimously ruled that a Massachusetts law regulating anti-abortion protesters was unconstitutional. The administration had urged that it be upheld.

Yet these cases are actually just the latest in a series of unanimous rebukes by the court of the administration's legal positions. In Hosanna-Tabor vs. EEOC of 2012, for example, the court unanimously held, again contrary to the administration's position, that religious freedom includes a church's right to make personnel decisions.

These cases should affect the way we think about congressional Republicans' determination to sue the administration over its casual approach to the rule of law, as Speaker of the House John Boehner has threatened. Republicans have grown angry over many moves by the administration that seem to ignore clear statutory text or otherwise advance novel theories of executive power.

The fact that even liberal Supreme Court justices appointed by Democratic presidents — two appointed by Obama himself — have repeatedly ruled that the administration's positions ran afoul of the Constitution suggests that more than just party politics is at work.

The Republicans are right to think this administration has made a dangerous habit of pushing the limits of its constitutional authority.


Ramesh Ponnuru, a Bloomberg View columnist, is a senior editor for National Review, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a resident fellow at the University of Chicago's Institute of Politics.

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