For the past few months, the legal discussion in Washington has centered around the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling on health care reform. Far less attention has been paid to a decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit on April 13—even though it may prove, in the long run, to be similarly significant. At first glance, the case, Hettinga v. United States, doesn’t seem to merit much attention, since it concerns a less-than-scintillating subject: the production and distribution of milk.
Democrats appear likely, though they haven't fully decided, to pass health care reform via something called a "self-executing rule." Instead of passing the senate health care bill and then passing the changes to it in a separate reconciliation bill, they'd pass a reconciliation bill with a "rule" that deemed the Senate bill to have been passed. So, one vote instead of two. The tactic is called "deem-and-pass." The advantage of this procedure is that Democrats believe it will protect them against unpopular elements of the Senate bill.
Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power from George Washington to George W. Bush By John Yoo (Kaplan, 544 pp., $29.95) Bomb Power: The Modern Presidency and the National Security State By Garry Wills (Penguin, 288 pp., $27.95) I. In December 2008, Chris Wallace asked Vice President Cheney, “If the president, during war, decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?” Cheney’s answer included a reference to a military authority that President Bush did not exercise.
Now that they control the Senate, some Democrats want to treat George W. Bush's judicial nominees as badly as Republicans treated Bill Clinton's. Senate Republicans repeatedly distorted the records of Clinton's nominees to the federal appellate courts, painting judicial moderates as judicial activists and denying them hearings. While Ronald Reagan and Clinton appointed similar numbers of appellate judges, 87 percent of Reagan's nominees were confirmed, compared with only 61 percent of Clinton's.
A Matter of Interpretation: Federal Courts and the Law by Antonin Scalia (Princeton University Press, 159 pp., $19.95) Original Meanings: Politics and Ideas in the Making of the Constitution by Jack N. Rakove (Knopf, 420 pp., $35) We are all originalists now. That is to say, most judges and legal scholars who want to remain within the boundaries of respectable constitutional discourse agree that the original meaning of the Constitution and its amendments has some degree of pertinence to the question of what the Constitution means today.
The conservative justices are privately exuberant about the remarkable Supreme Court term that ended last week. Surprised and slightly dazed by the magnitude of their victory, they think they have finally exorcized the ghost of the Warren Court, fulfilled the goals of the conservative judicial revolution and vindicated the ideal of a color-blind Constitution for the first time since Reconstruction.
Can the state of Arizona pay an interpreter to sign the rosary for James Zobrest, a deaf student at a Catholic high school? Zobrest's parents claim Arizona misinterpreted the religion clauses of the First Amendment ("Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof") when it decided to put sign language interpreters in secular, but not religious, private schools. At oral argument on February 24, the justices joked about their incoherent doctrine for policing the Establishment Clause and the embarrassing results it has produced.