Supreme Court Debates President’s Power To Keep ‘Israel’ Off Passports

Supreme Court Debates President’s Power To Keep ‘Israel’ Off Passports

By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court justices sounded sharply and closely split Monday by a case challenging the president’s power to refuse to allow the passports of American children born in Jerusalem to be stamped with “Israel.”

The court’s liberal and Jewish justices strongly defended the State Department’s policy — under Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush — against listing Israel or any other nation on the passports of children born in Jerusalem. Both Israelis and Palestinians claim the ancient city as their capital.

Justice Elena Kagan called the move to add Israel to these passports “a very selective ‘vanity plate’ law.” She said it was “shocking” that Congress would seek to meddle in a sensitive foreign policy “tinderbox.”

She was referring to a 2002 authorization bill passed by Congress that included a provision giving U.S. parents a right to have Israel cited on the passports of children born in Jerusalem.

Though Bush signed the broader law, both the Bush and Obama administrations have refused to abide by its passport provision. In court, they argued it is unconstitutional because it conflicts with the president’s “exclusive power” over foreign affairs.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer agreed the courts should defer to the State Department. “I’m a judge. I’m not a foreign affairs expect,” he told Alyza Lewin, the lawyer for the Jewish parents who brought the challenge. “What do we as judges do?”

Before she could answer, Justice Antonin Scalia interjected with his answer. Congress has the power to makes the laws, he said, including by declaring war on another country. And if so, he said, it can certainly decide what goes on a passport.

“We do not hold an act of Congress unconstitutional,” Scalia said, just “so we can make nice with the Palestinians.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Samuel A. Alito said they agreed with Scalia and were not troubled by Congress setting rules for passports.

Once again, the outcome probably depends on Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, and he said he was looking for a compromise position. The State Department could solve the problem, he said, if it issued a “disclaimer.” Regardless of what the passports say, the United States could state it does not recognize Israel or any other nation as having sovereign control over Jerusalem, he said.

Since 1948, the U.S. government has refused to take an official position on the status of Jerusalem. The high court now has several months to decide what U.S. passports will say about American children who are born there.

AFP Photo/Karen Bleier

Want more political news and analysis? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Trump Aide Weisselberg Will Plead Guilty To Perjury In Fraud Trial

Allan Weisselberg, right, with former President Donald Trump

NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - Former Trump Organization Chief Financial Officer Allen Weisselberg will plead guilty to perjury charges stemming from his testimony in former President Donald Trump's civil fraud trial in New York, the New York Times reported on Monday.His plea could come as early as Monday, sources familiar with the matter told the Times.

Keep reading...Show less
Nancy Mace

Rep. Nancy Mace

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) has taken the bold step of defending in vitro fertilization by introducing a nonbinding resolution. That way Republicans in the House can pretend that they’re taking steps to protect IVF without actually protecting IVF.

Keep reading...Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}