Each time Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., opens her mouth, it warrants one of those “That’s not how this works … That’s not how any of this works” memes.
AOC wants to impeach justices on the Supreme Court for not doing what she wants.
She also–interestingly enough–wants to emulate former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in hauling judges before a public spectacle in Congress.
No one explained to AOC that’s not exactly how it works, but perhaps no one felt they had to explain this to an adult who managed to get elected to Congress.
Democrats are in the minority in the House. So, there is no simple majority to impeach. Even if they did, there would obviously be no avenue for a two-thirds Senate majority to convict any justice that doesn’t bend to AOC’s demands.
Nevertheless, she managed to get some mileage out of her CNN interview on Sunday. And attention is usually the point for her.
AOC accused the Supreme Court of a “dangerous creep toward authoritarianism and centralization of power in the courts.” One could easily say the same about President Joe Biden’s student loan policy–done without congressional authorization–and struck down by the justices.
That decision was almost inevitable, but it’s one that upset AOC.
On other fronts, the Supreme Court ruled against affirmative action for colleges and universities. It also ruled in favor of free speech for a Christian web designer in Colorado. She didn’t like those either. Her answer:
“There also must be impeachment on the table,” AOC said during the interview. “We have a broad level of tools to deal with misconduct, overreach and abuse of power, and the Supreme Court has not been receiving the adequate oversight necessary in order to preserve their own legitimacy.”
Her plan B is to subpoena justices to be grilled by members of Congress over rulings that she and her fellow Squad allies don’t like.
“I believe that if Chief Justice Roberts will not come before Congress for an investigation voluntarily, I believe that we should be considering subpoenas,” AOC said.
This is even worse, and here’s why.
On the surface, impeachment might seem more far-reaching. But it is at least a constitutional check that Congress has on the Judiciary–even if it’s one that shouldn’t be abused.
Requiring federal judges to explain themselves to Congress would glaringly thwart the separation of powers.
Notably, it’s not just a leftwing problem.
When Gingrich ran for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, he called for doing much the same thing. Tribal politics being what they are in this country, the same folks now holding their fire on AOC, then correctly accused Gingrich of attacking an independent judiciary.
Gingrich has less of an excuse than AOC. Regardless of what you think of the guy, he is smart. Still, he also had a bomb thrower reputation. And when running for president he said he would bring federal judges before Congress. If they declined, he said he would order U.S. Marshals to drag them to the Capitol.
In 2011, Gingrich was largely referring to Supreme Court rulings that had frustrated the national security aims of the Bush-Cheney administration that he vowed to restore if elected.
These things go in cycles. Gingrich and Ocasio-Cortez have a bit of a point. Whether right or left, the Supreme Court–or the judiciary–often seems more equal than the other co-equal branches of government. It used to be a more common critique on the right that the judiciary is the farthest branch from the people–unelected–yet is the most powerful.
Reasonable proposals, such as term limits replacing lifetime appointments, or allowing a supermajority in Congress to reverse a high court ruling, were once championed on the right, and now left-wing commentators are warming to them.
Such proposals would almost certainly require a constitutional amendment, which can either be enacted or not. In the meantime, politicians should cool it when attacking an entire separate branch of government for not getting what they want.
Barbara Joanna Lucas is a writer and researcher in Northern Virginia. She has been a healthcare professional, political blogger, is a proud dog mom, and news junkie.