James Madison was so repelled by the idea of an unbalanced government, that he declared the accumulation of powers all in the same hands as the “very definition of tyranny.” If he was alive today, he certainly wouldn’t be pleased with the state of affairs. Since the days of our Founding Fathers, we’ve witnessed a drastic shift away from the original separation of powers established by the Constitution and the emergence of an almighty administrative state filled with unelected bureaucrats who have the ability to effectively implement, interpret and create laws.
The practice of administrative agencies engaging in de facto “lawmaking” was exacerbated by a 1984 Supreme Court decision, Chevron U.S.A. v. NRDC, which determined that courts must defer to agencies’ interpretation of ambiguous laws as long as their interpretation is deemed “reasonable.” And more than three decades since this decision, we’ve seen its sweeping impact on multitude of regulations constantly churned out by federal agencies.
Just this week, a federal court decision relied on the “Chevron doctrine” in upholding the FCC’s reclassification of broadband internet access as a telecommunications service to establish “net neutrality” rules. And not too long before that, a federal court decision leading up to the controversial transgender bathroom guidance also utilized the “Chevron doctrine” in deferring to agencies’ broad interpretation of Title IX. Additionally, the “Chevron doctrine” influenced the EPA’s “Clean Power Plan,” by allowing the agency to assume that “Chevron deference” would prevent proper judicial review of its sweeping interpretation of the “Clean Air Act.”
In these and countless other cases, the “Chevron doctrine” allowed for critical changes in the law without enactment of legislation from Congress and without any say from the Judicial Branch – exhibiting the very “tyranny” that James Madison loathed. If we allow this pattern to continue, our country will move even further away from the balance of powers that were intended to keep our government in sync with the will of the American people. As a strong constitutional conservative, I’ve teamed up with my colleagues in both chambers of Congress to introduce a solution: the Separation of Powers Restoration Act (SOPRA).
This critical measure reverses the 1984 Supreme Court decision that established the “Chevron doctrine,” placing the power to determine ambiguous laws back into the hands of the Judiciary. This would help stop future abuse of power by preventing administrative agencies from establishing regulations with the intent of leveraging the “Chevron doctrine” to implement them however they so choose, fully free from judicial review. Instead, agencies will be forced to adhere to the courts’ interpretation of the laws they implement – keeping them from “grading their own papers,” as they’re allowed under the “Chevron doctrine.”
As a member of Congress, it’s my job to ensure the federal government is working for the people, not the other way around. And I urge my colleagues to join me in stopping unelected bureaucrats from relying on the “Chevron doctrine” to push through their partisan agenda. After all, when the Constitution wins, so do the American people.
Rep. Ratcliffe represents the 4th District of Texas.