Guest Post by Chris Beckmann.
In Washington, there is an ever-present struggle for power between Congress and the President. Technically, the President is only meant to execute laws passed by Congress, not create his own. But favorable rulings on Presidential power and the electoral mandate have resulted in independent Presidential action becoming a political reality.
Lately, many people have cited the ever-increasing overreach of presidential
power. Just last week, Speaker John Boehner sued President Obama for failing to carry out laws passed by the House and acting on his own. But as much of a
spotlight as there is on the President, the Supreme Court may be the political
institution that comes to prominence in the near future.
The current Supreme Court has been very active lately, delivering rulings
killing the near-future dreams of internet television with Aereo and stopping
police from looking through our cell phones unwarranted.
But this week, the big ruling came when the Court decided that Hobby Lobby (and any religiously affiliated employer) can deny its employees access to healthcare coverage to contraception and other services on the basis of religious freedom. This broader interpretation of freedom of speech could make waves in the legislative world. For example, the previously stalled No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance full disclosure Act of 2014 could make serious progress in with the momentum of the new ruling. Now, proponents of the bill can argue that denying individuals abortion coverage is simply freedom of religious expression and that legislators need to follow in the guidance of the court.
With the outcome of this ruling, I can’t help but raise the question: will
Supreme Court rulings start to change the way Congressman write legislation? In an era that seemed to be heading in an increasingly progressive direction on
social issues such as gay rights and abortion rights, will increased religious
influence lead to Congressman writing more reserved legislation?
Whatever your stance on these issues is, just remember to keep the court in the
back of your mind when thinking about politics. While you may not hear about it
nearly as much as Congress or the President, an aggressive court like the
current one can have a sweeping, non-alterable influence on the political
landscape. Forget Interest Groups and SuperPAC’s. One of the quietest powers in politics is hiding in plain sight.
*Chris Beckmann is a political science major at Johns Hopkins and a
marketing associate at TrackBill, a legislative tracking service.
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