Our Constitution makes Congress the first branch of government, but the Capitol is today regarded almost as a house of ill-repute, both for the character of its members (not necessarily ours, but theirs) and its general contribution (or lack thereof) to the national well-being. As a legislature, its primary means of asserting itself must be to pass legislation, but it has become infamously inept in that work in this age of severe polarization and powerful interest groups happy to block changes to a status quo they find lucrative. Given the apparent permanency of these underlying factors, many observers now see the waning of Congress’s importance as both inevitable and unequivocally desirable.
Professors Eric Posner and Adrian Vermeule have famously argued that the Executive is “unbound” and cannot be constrained by law—not by Congress, and most certainly not by the courts. There is some truth to this in emergencies. The Supreme Court’s wartime decisions, for instance, show a fairly consistent pattern: the justices bob and weave and cut the President an awful lot of slack. But they usually try to salvage what they can—and to preserve the option of reasserting their power when the emergency ends.