An Analysis of Policy-Based Congressional Responses to the U.S. Supreme Court's Constitutional Decisions


  • Bethany Blackstone


While Congress can attempt to overrule constitutional decisions of the Supreme Court by initiating the constitutional amendment process, an amendment is rarely a practicable option. Instead, Congress regularly tries to modify the impact of constitutional decisions with ordinary legislation. I analyze policy-based responses to the Supreme Court's constitutional decisions that were initiated in Congress between 1995 and 2010. For each responsive proposal, I consider the relationship between the proposed legislation and the Court's legal holding and the relationship between the proposal and the public policy associated with the Court's decision. I find that Congress enjoys considerable success in reversing the policy impacts of the Court's decisions but is limited in its ability to overcome the Court's legal rules.