SCOTUS Gives a Victory to the Executive Branch

In a decision with important implications for executive/legislative clashes over foreign policy issues, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued a 6-3 decision validating the decision by this president and his immediate predecessor to disregard a statute directing the executive branch to issue passports to citizens born in Jerusalem that name “Israel” as the place of origin. The statute had the intentional effect of overriding a presidential policy decision to leave the status of Jerusalem–long a central point of contention in Middle East peace discussions–ambivalent.

Five Justices–Kennedy (who wrote the Court’s opinion), Ginsburg, Beyer, Sotomayor and Kagan–flatly endorsed the executive branch’s supremacy in this and similar areas, which is being regarded (perhaps implicitly by the three dissenters, led by the Chief Justice) as a precedent that might affect a future decision over, say, U.S. diplomacy with Iran. Justice Thomas agreed with the decision but only because he felt control of passports was an “unenumberated” foreign policy power; I’m guessing he’d feel otherwise about a dispute over treaty-making.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.