Padilla Introduces Legislation to Place Congressional Check on Supreme Court Decisions

Supreme Court Review Act would prompt Congress to respond quickly to activist Court decisions and restore policymaking power of the legislative branch

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, joined Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) in introducing the Supreme Court Review Act, a new bill to strengthen Congress’s ability to legislate in response to Supreme Court decisions that roll back constitutional rights. The Senators’ bill would help ensure that the constitutional power to make policy remains with Congress, not the Supreme Court, by creating streamlined procedures through which Congress can exercise its existing power to amend statutes or create federal statutory rights in response to Supreme Court decisions.

“Over the last term, our nation has seen how quickly an activist Supreme Court can roll back numerous constitutional liberties, gutting protections Americans have held for decades,” said Senator Padilla. “This necessary legislation will return policymaking to the hands of the American people’s elected representatives and allow Congress to respond quickly when the Supreme Court overreaches its authority.”

“Six radical justices enacted a bonanza of right-wing policies during the last term, reshaping American life in wildly unpopular ways over just a matter of days. The American people are fed up with policymaking by unaccountable Supreme Court justices, and we have a solution,” said Senator Whitehouse, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Courts Subcommittee. “This important good-government reform would check the activist Court’s rogue decisions by ensuring policymaking stays where the Constitution delegated it: in the hands of the American people and their elected representatives.”

“I’ve always said that the most important quality in a Supreme Court Justice is their ability to understand the impact their decisions will have on everyday Americans.  In the face of an increasingly extreme Supreme Court, the American people deserve accountability and responsiveness from all three branches of government,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “This bill would allow Congress to more efficiently exercise its existing power to respond when the Court misinterprets Congressional intent or strips Americans of fundamental rights.”

In addition to Senators Padilla, Whitehouse, and Cortez Masto, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Congressman Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), Chairman of the House Judiciary Courts Subcommittee, is leading the introduction of the bill in the House. The bill is supported by People for the American Way, Public Citizen, the Project on Government Oversight, the Niskanen Center, Common Cause, Fix the Court, the Center for Biological Diversity, and Evergreen Action.

Congress already has similar processes for expeditiously responding to Executive Branch overreach, including by responding to “major” agency rules under the Congressional Review Act.  The bill would apply that same framework to Supreme Court decisions. This bill:

  • Mirrors the Congressional Review Act by codifying a process for passing new laws in response to Supreme Court decisions that interpret federal statutes or roll back constitutional rights;
  • Includes expedited procedures for the Senate to pass these laws by a simple majority;
  • Prevents abuse of the process by excluding any “extraneous” changes to federal law, similar to the “Byrd Rule” during the budget reconciliation process; and
  • Ensures that members of the minority party in the Senate have an opportunity to propose alternative updates to the law.

Revitalizing our system of checks and balances is essential to restoring Americans’ faith in government. A Gallup poll taken in late June—before the Court overturned Roe v. Wade, curtailed the EPA’s ability to fight climate change, and threw out centuries-old gun safety regulations—found that only 25 percent of Americans had a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court.  The Supreme Court Review Act would help restore the American people’s trust in government by improving Congress’s ability to check harmful and unpopular Supreme Court decisions.

Full text of the bill is available here.

A summary of the bill is available here.