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letters | taking a measure of the high court

Supreme Court increasingly stepping in for paralyzed Congress

I ENJOYED Laurence H. Tribe’s op-ed on the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell (“A victory for the people,” June 26). But where he sees Chief Justice John Roberts’s opinion as apolitical, I see political rationale. And where he sees “sour grapes” in Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent, I see the same, but also a legitimate frustration with our democracy.

The court took the case and edited the statute because, first, it would have been inhumane to do otherwise (a traditionally political consideration), and, second, it’s unrealistic to expect a congressional fix. The fraction of bills that actually pass both houses has declined steadily over the past 25 years.


To be fair, the Supreme Court has borne some responsibility for this since 1983, when it ruled that any statutory change requires the agreement of 270 politicians — a bicameral majority plus the president. In a more agile democracy, Scalia’s approach might be prudent. But in reality, an activist judiciary will increasingly have to step in for an inactive Congress.

Charles J. Borrero, Babylon, N.Y.