By Anna Harvey
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Additional resources for A Mere Machine: The Supreme Court, Congress, and American Democracy
As reported in Chapters Five through Seven, during the “ﬁrst” Rehnquist Court, a conservative majority on the Court largely pulled its constitutional punches in its rulings on liberal federal statutes. Facing a liberal Democratic majority in the House of Representatives during its ﬁrst eight terms, the conservative Rehnquist Court either avoided reviewing liberal federal statutes, or largely upheld the constitutionality SUPREME COURT, CONGRESS, AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY of those statutes. The best explanation for these decisions appears to be that the Court was deferring to the preferences of liberal Democratic House majorities.
Presumably, if the federalism interpretation were correct, the Rehnquist Court would have been equally likely to strike both liberal and conservative federal statutes. All federal statutes should have been similarly at risk during the second Rehnquist Court, as the justices sought to free state governments from burdensome federal regulations. But this is not what we observe. Federal statutes enacted by the uniﬁed Republican Congresses sitting between 1995 and 2004 were signiﬁcantly less likely to be struck by the second Rehnquist Court, relative to statutes enacted by uniﬁed Democratic Congresses, even controlling for statute age.
19 20 SUPREME COURT, CONGRESS, AND AMERICAN DEMOCRACY In fact, the estimates from this analysis indicate that the ﬁrst Rehnquist Court’s docket of constitutional challenges to liberal landmark statutes was reduced by approximately 93 percent between its 1987 and 1993 terms, relative to the docket we would have observed had this Court not faced liberal House majorities. Between its 1994 and 2004 terms, however, the presence of conservative Republican House majorities freed the Court’s docket from any elected branch constraint.
A Mere Machine: The Supreme Court, Congress, and American Democracy by Anna Harvey