Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock
Annotate this Case
480 U.S. 678 (1987)
U.S. Supreme Court
Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock, 480 U.S. 678 (1987)
Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock
Argued December 1, 1986
Decided March 25, 1987
480 U.S. 678
To assist airline employees dislocated as a result of the deregulation of commercial air carriers pursuant to the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (Act), Congress enacted an Employee Protection Program (EPP) as § 43 of the Act. The EPP imposes on covered airlines the "duty to hire" dislocated protected employees, who have a "first right of hire" in their occupational specialties with any covered airline that is hiring additional employees. Section 43 authorizes the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations for the administration of the EPP, but § 43(f)(3) contains a legislative veto provision stating that any final regulation shall become effective after 60 legislative days following its submission to Congress, unless, during that period, either House of Congress adopts a resolution disapproving it. Petitioners, airlines subject to the Act's duty-to-hire provisions, filed suit in Federal District Court, which granted summary judgment for them, holding § 43(f)(3)'s legislative veto provision unconstitutional under INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, and striking down the entire EPP on the ground that the veto provision was nonseverable. On appeal from the finding of nonseverability, the Court of Appeals reversed.
Held: Section 43(f)(3)'s legislative veto provision is severable from the remainder of the EPP program. Pp. 480 U. S. 684-697.
(a) The standard for determining the severability of an unconstitutional provision in a federal statute is that, unless it is evident that Congress would not have enacted those provisions which are within its power independently of that which is not, the invalid part may be dropped if what is left is fully operative as a law. The relevant inquiry in evaluating severability is whether the statute will function in a manner consistent with Congress' intent. In considering this question in the context of a legislative veto, it must be recognized that the absence of the veto necessarily alters the balance of powers between the Legislative and Executive Branches of the Federal Government. Thus, it is not only appropriate to evaluate the importance of the veto in the original legislative bargain, but also to consider the nature of the delegated authority that Congress made subject to a veto. Pp. 480 U. S. 684-687.
(b) Severability of the legislative veto provision here is supported by the Act's language and structure. Congress' intent that the EPP's first-hire provisions should survive in the absence of the legislative veto provision is suggested strongly by the detailed affirmative duty the statute places directly on air carriers. The first-hire provisions scarcely need the adoption of regulations by the Secretary, and thus leave little of substance to be subject to a veto. The ancillary nature of the Secretary's obligations to implement the first-hire provisions is further evidence that Congress delegated only limited substantive discretion to the Secretary. Pp. 480 U. S. 678-691.
(c) The legislative history of the EPP supports the conclusion that Congress would have enacted the duty-to-hire provisions even without a legislative veto provision by revealing that Congress regarded labor protection as an important feature of the Act, while it paid scant attention to the legislative veto provision. The emphasis during deliberations on the Act was placed overwhelmingly on the substantive provisions of the statute. Pp. 480 U. S. 691-696.
247 U.S.App.D.C. 132, 766 F.2d 1550, affirmed.
BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.