by Bob Barr
Speaker Nancy Pelosi this past weekend launched a broadside invective at the United States Supreme Court, calling the Court’s justices – apparently all nine of them — “political hacks.” Additional opinions expected in the coming weeks, however, are likely to heighten the Speaker’s ire.
While the country continues in the grip of a medical pandemic made worse by a series of draconian measures instituted by state governors and local officials limiting individual liberty, Ms. Pelosi found time to vent her anger at the Supreme Court. Interestingly, the Court did not incur the Speaker’s wrath because it dared limit what has become the Left’s most sacred shibboleth – unfettered access to abortion on demand. Nor was the Speaker’s anger precipitated by a majority of justices finding cause to support the right to possess a firearm, which, unlike the right to an abortion, is expressly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights.
No, Ms. Pelosi was furious that the nation’s highest court let stand a decision by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin that did nothing more than allow a long-scheduled primary election to proceed on April 7th without extending the time for absentee ballots to be gathered in. From the perspective of Speaker Pelosi, who just weeks ago delayed for many days a House vote to provide essential financial assistance to individuals and businesses harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing an election to proceed according to the law makes the Supreme Court justices nothing more than petty “political hacks.”
Pelosi’s judicial peeve notwithstanding, one has to give her a small degree of credit for paying attention to the goings on at the High Court during a time when most of the federal government, the Congress included, has been hunkered down and operating on minimal cylinders.
In fact, there is much happening inside the cloistered halls of the nation’s highest court; with consequential decisions in the offing, affecting everything from Second Amendment rights to the ability of a president to fire the head of a federal regulatory agency.
It is well-known that the justices have decided not to decide any Second Amendment case expanding their narrow but significant 2008 and 2010 opinions that at long last decreed that the Amendment does in fact guarantee an individual right to possess a firearm. However, in a case argued before the Court last December, the justices are poised to decide the constitutionality of a New York City ban on transporting a firearm from one location to another by a lawful gun owner.
It is likely a majority of the Court’s nine justices will decide to protect an individual’s Second Amendment rights against New York City’s since-rescinded but absolute transportation ban. And even though the scope of the expected decision is likely to be extremely limited, Speaker Pelosi’s outcry at such a result will almost certainly make her recent blast at the High Court pale in comparison.
In an unrelated but also important case awaiting decision by the Court, the justices will decide whether the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is immune from presidential control. The 2010 law establishing the CFPB uniquely protected the agency’s director from being removed by the president under virtually any circumstances.
The CFPB case was argued earlier this month, with a decision scheduled for early May. A Court majority is expected to find the unusual stature now enjoyed by this regulatory chieftain to be a violation of the separation of powers principle undergirding our three-branch federal government, according to which a president must be free to remove heads of agencies within the Executive Branch.
One can already hear the howls of anger certain to issue from the mouth of Speaker Pelosi if a majority of justices next month exhibits the gall to uphold the structure of our federal government established by our Founders two-and-one-third centuries ago, as against the “partisan hacks” who rammed through the CFPB legislation back in 2010 when – surprise – Nancy Pelosi was enjoying her first stint as Speaker.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.