Congressman John Kline on Court Stripping
Ken Avidor and I went to cover the Republican Leadership Conference at the Bloomington today. Congressman Kline spoke at the event. As Kline was leaving, I took the opportunity to ask him about his co-sponsorship of the courtstripping bill on DOMA. I asked him whether he was familiar with Marbury v Madison and whether that case was wrongly decided. Kline was not familiar with Marbury v Madison. I said "and you are a congressman?" I followed up with a question about why Kline signed on to a DOMA only court stripping, rather than a broader court stripping bill. The video shows Kline's response.
The critical importance of Marbury is the assumption of several powers by the Supreme Court. One was the authority to declare acts of Congress, and by implication acts of the president, unconstitutional if they exceeded the powers granted by the Constitution. But even more important, the Court became the arbiter of the Constitution, the final authority on what the document meant. As such, the Supreme Court became in fact as well as in theory an equal partner in government, and it has played that role ever since.
The Court would not declare another act of Congress unconstitutional until 1857, and it has used that power sparingly. But through its role as arbiter of the Constitution, it has, especially in the twentieth century, been the chief agency for the expansion of individual rights. (See Part V.)
For further reading: George L. Haskins and Herbert A. Johnson, Foundations of Power: John Marshall, 1801-1815 (1981); Donald O. Dewey, Marshall v. Jefferson: The Political Background of Marbury v. Madison (1970).