Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Affordable Care Act;Congress;Constitutional Deliberation;Constitutional Law;Sebelius;Supreme Court
How does judicial supremacy affect constitutional deliberation in Congress? Normative critics of judicial supremacy argue that judicial supremacy warps congressional debate by disincentivizing members of Congress from independently considering the moral and legal issues at stake in legislation. As this dissertation’s quantitative analysis, topic modeling, and qualitative textual analysis show, the Supreme Court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) disincentivized members of Congress from engaging in independent constitutional interpretation and normative argumentation. Before the Supreme Court’s decision in Sebelius, members of both parties debated the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and used constitutional discourse as scaffolding for normative argumentation. However, as seen in this dissertation’s quantitative analysis, topic modeling, and qualitative textual analysis, Sebelius reduced the quantity of constitutional deliberation over the Commerce Clause and the quality of constitutional deliberation over the Taxing and Spending Clause. Post-Sebelius, most members of Congress expressed their acceptance of Sebelius and used the decision as a justification for character attacks on their political opponents. Finally, Congress’ inability to independently consider the legal issues at stake in the Affordable Care Act shaped the Affordable Care Act’s interpretative effects and undermined Republicans’ long-term policy goal of entrenching the individual responsibility model of health care. This dissertation advances (with empirical evidence) two claims: that constitutional deliberation in Congress is significant for both normative and practical reasons. This dissertation argues that constitutional deliberation in Congress is normatively desirable because constitutional discourse can serve as scaffolding for normative argumentation in congressional debate. This dissertation finds evidence that judicial supremacy warps this normatively desirable debate in Congress and therefore provides empirical support for the normative claims of critics of judicial supremacy that judicial supremacy has negative effects on the United States’ constitutional system. This dissertation also argues that constitutional deliberation in Congress is practically significant because constitutional discourse can affect policy implementation, policy entrenchment, and a policy’s interpretative effects. Constitutional discourse in Congress matters.
Jenkins, Laura E., "Paradise Lost: The Effect of Judicial Review on Congressional Debate" (2024). Dissertations - ALL. 1841.