Dover Bitch

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Why even ask Congress to take an oath?

Dahlia Lithwick writes with Richard Schragger today and simply hits one out of the park.

Specter's justification for then voting for a bill he deemed unconstitutional? "Congress could have done it right and didn't, but the next line of defense is the court, and I think the court will clean it up."

There is some irony in this congressional willingness to see the courts as some kind of constitutional chambermaid—as an entity that exists to clean up after Congress smashes up the room. It is especially ironic when it's articulated by members of Congress who like to invoke judicial restraint as a constitutional value. But it is beyond ironic, and approaching parody, when Congress asks the court to clean up a bill it knows to be unconstitutional, when the bill itself includes a court-stripping provision.

Criticizing the court for overturning the laws passed by Congress—as Specter did repeatedly during the John Roberts and Samuel Alito hearings—is fair, so long as one is willing to defend one's own interpretation of the Constitution when one gets a chance to assert it. But simultaneously crying "judicial activism" as you rely on the courts for political cover when you're too timid to defy the electorate—or your president—is hypocritical.

Lithwick and Fred Kaplan are pretty much the only reason to ever visit Slate anymore.

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