Supreme Court Flips Precedent, Empowering Federal Agencies No More

Supreme Court Flips Precedent, Empowering Federal Agencies No More

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Chevron deference in two cases


The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued a decision striking down the Chevron deference in two cases brought by fishing operators in New Jersey and Rhode Island. Chevron deference had given federal agencies broad discretion to use their judgment to resolve any ambiguity Congress left in a federal statute. The principle was overturned by a 6-3 and 6-2 decision and had limited judicial power to strike executive branch regulations, a decision that was immediately criticized for potentially undermining decisions by agency experts and scientists.

Chevron Deference

The precedent known as Chevron deference had given federal agencies the power to use their judgment to resolve any ambiguity Congress left in a federal statute. Under the 40-year-old precedent, courts would give up their interpretive role and defer to agencies. The court’s six conservatives reasoned that courts “routinely confront statutory ambiguities” that have nothing to do with the authority of regulatory agencies. “Of course, when faced with a statutory ambiguity in such a case, the ambiguity is not a delegation to anybody, and a court is not somehow relieved of its obligation to independently interpret the statute,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. Roberts wrote that courts instead understand that such statutes, no matter how impenetrable, do — in fact, must — have a single, best meaning.”

Impact on regulatory safeguards and environment

The reversal of the Chevron deference is expected to strip agencies of the power to enact regulatory safeguards across a broad spectrum of issues including clean air and public health. Experts warn that this can potentially undermine the role of government in ensuring the health and safety of families and the fairness of markets. Liberal groups and elected Democrats worry that this will weaken the government’s ability to protect us from the climate crisis, threats to worker safety, public health, clean air and water, safe medicines and food, a sound financial system, and more.

Congress and the legislative branch

Republicans in Congress and conservative activists praised the decision for weakening the administrative state, saying it would return power to the legislative branch. “The Constitution vests Congress with the sole authority to make law,” Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said in a statement. “We’re no longer going to let federal agencies fill in the details when it comes to the policies we enact.” Rep. Bruce Westerman, an Arkansas Republican who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, said Friday’s ruling should spur Congress to write more prescriptive laws. “Congress has sidestepped our legal duties for far too long and today’s ruling puts us back in the driver’s seat when it comes to rulemaking and regulatory authority,” Westerman said in a written statement.

Opposing views on the reversal of Chevron deference

However, opponents argue that this decision is a power

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