Brief Fact Summary. Chadha was an East Indian student who had overstayed his visa and was deportable. The Attorney General suspended his deportation. The House passed a resolution that Chadha should be deported because he did not meet the hardship requirement.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. The one-house veto violated Article I, Section: 7, the Presentment Clause, because a bill must be presented to the President to sign or veto, and it violated Article I, Section:Section: 1 and 7, bicameralism.
Issue. Is it constitutional for Congress to statutorily authorize a one-house veto of a decision the Attorney General made, under authority delegated to him by Congress, to allow a particular deportable alien to remain in the United States?
Held. Chief Justice Burger opinion. No. The court of appeals’ decision is affirmed.
Congress first argued that Section 244(c)(2) was not severable. Therefore, if that provision was unconstitutional than the whole statute was, and then the Attorney General could not suspend Chadha’s deportation order. He would lack standing because he would receive no relief from an order declaring Section 244(c)(2) invalid. The Court pointed out that Congress itself had provided for severability in Section 406 of the Act.
Even if this law or procedure were efficient, convenient and useful in facilitating functions of government, that alone would not save it if it is contrary to the United States Constitution. The very structure of Articles I, II, and III exemplify the concept of separation of powers. The Framers ranked other values higher than efficiency. They sought to define and limit the exercise of the newly created federal powers affecting the states and the people.
The one-house veto violated Article I, Section: 7, the Presentment Clause, because a bill must be presented to the President to sign or veto. The Presentment Clause is an effort to check whatever propensity a particular Congress might have to enact oppressive, improvident or ill-considered measures.
The one-house veto was unconstitutional because it violated Article I, Section:Section: 1 and 7, Bicameralism. The Framers were trying to balance the legislative process. The President’s participation was to protect the Executive branch from Congress and to protect the whole people from improvident laws. The Attorney General is part of the executive branch. When Congress is vetoing his decision, they are encroaching upon territory reserved for the Executive branch. Both Houses had to vote on the bill because splitting the legislative power means it will be exercised only after opportunity for full study and debate in separate settings.
This action was legislative in character and effect because it was to establish a uniform rule of naturalization, it altered the legal rights, duties and relations of persons, including the Attorney General, executive Branch officials and Chadha.
Dissent. Justice White and Justice Rehnquist dissenting.
J. White: Today’s decision eliminates over 200 statutory provisions in which Congress has reserved a “legislative veto” which is more efficient. The Court’s decision fails to recognize that the legislative veto is not the type of action subject to the bicameralism and presentment requirements of Article I.
J. Rehnquist: Congress could not have intended the one-house veto provision to be severable from the rest of the statute. They never intended to permit suspensions of deportation unless they could retain some sort of veto.
Concurrence. Justice Powell concurring. The case should be decided on a narrower ground. For example, Congress may not encroach the Judicial branch because it is a judicial function to determine whether a particular person does not satisfy the statutory criteria for permanent residence.
J. Burger presents the same argument that J. Black did in Youngstown, just because something is useful, does not mean it is constitutional
The Court in Mistretta v. United States held that the Court would uphold statutory provisions that to some degree commingle the functions of the branches, but that pose no danger of either aggrandizement or encroachment.
The dissent by Justice Scalia in Mistretta stated that the Commissions’ guidelines are laws, since any judge that disregards them will be reversed. Congress cannot create an agency that has no governmental power other than to make laws, because only Congress can make laws under the Constitution. The court upholding a pure delegation of legislative power has encouraged Congress to delegate its lawmaking powers frequently in the future, particularly over no-win political issues.
Congress could have said that they are giving the Attorney General a discretionary power and because discretionary powers are really Congress’s responsibility, they are putting strings on that power. If Congress does not like what the Attorney General does in a given case then they can override it. So, the case can either be that Congress is giving the executive power, creating a power which would have a life of it’s own, but the nature of the power is limited. Therefore they are not really taking anything away from the Attorney General and it is not aggrandizement. If Congress could not use a legislative veto, then they might not pass on the power at all.