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Title: Business at the Court: The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Legal Campaign against Health Care Reform, 2010-2012
Authors: Lederman, Isaac
Advisors: Wailoo, Keith
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: How do interest groups use the courts to change policy? To answer this question, this thesis examines the litigation surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA). In particular, this study focuses on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s involvement in the legal challenges to the Act between March 2010 and June 2012. This thesis draws on over 200 sources. Seven hundred and forty-two pages of amicus curiae (“friend of the court”) briefs and federal court rulings lie at the heart of this work. Political science provides some, but not all of the tools by which to assess these texts. It counsels that language, not citation, is evidence of judges’ borrowing from briefs. Moreover, political science pushes scholars to recognize the contingent and complementary nature of legal action. In addition, historical institutionalism brings into focus how movements, in part, reflect the regimes they fight. Lastly, anthropology accounts for this thesis’s general wariness towards the powerful and their (re)constructions of history. This study proceeds as follows. Chapter 1 shows how the business lobby played a role in moving both the judiciary and health care debates to the right. Even before proceedings against the PPACA began, the interest group had already triumphed. All levels of the federal judiciary now boast more business-friendly judges than prior to 1971. The Chamber also won in that the health care reform law respected free enterprise in a way that other, earlier bills did not. This victory did not stop the Chamber from helping to litigate against the law between 2010 and 2012. Chapter 2 examines the business lobby’s involvement in the legal campaign and the influence of its amicus briefs on appellate court decisions. Although the organization took a rather laissez-faire approach, it still managed to have the pro-business justices of the Supreme Court rule in such a way as to limit the power of the federal government for years to come. Chapter 3 investigates why the interest group has not continued to fight President Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement in court. It appears that while the Chamber continues to oppose the PPACA, it does not see its interests aligned with those of the sometimes successful challengers in recent cases. These findings have two main policy implications. First, while interest groups do not shape the nation’s laws singlehandedly, this study has left no doubt that they can exercise enormous power over Congress and the federal courts. While scholars have mainly focused on the relationship between the Chamber and the Supreme Court, further quantitative research is needed to assess the disposition of the appellate courts and the federal district courts towards business interests. Second, this study has made clear that although a policy’s life begins in enactment, it does not end there. Courts often must decide whether a given reform lives or dies. Political scientists should work to integrate the judiciary into their accounts of not just why some overhauls survive and other do not but also how policy change happens more generally. Ultimately, this thesis argues that when business is at court, it wins, even if it has done so legislatively already.
Extent: 124 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2016

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