480 U.S. 678 (1987), 85-920, Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock

Docket Nº:No. 85-920
Citation:480 U.S. 678, 107 S.Ct. 1476, 94 L.Ed.2d 661, 55 U.S.L.W. 4396
Party Name:Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Brock
Case Date:March 25, 1987
Court:United States Supreme Court

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480 U.S. 678 (1987)

107 S.Ct. 1476, 94 L.Ed.2d 661, 55 U.S.L.W. 4396

Alaska Airlines, Inc.



No. 85-920

United States Supreme Court

March 25, 1987

Argued December 1, 1986




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 [107 S.Ct. 1477] 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. 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. 684-687.

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(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. 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. 691-696.

247 U.S.App.D.C. 132, 766 F.2d 1550, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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BLACKMUN, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

In INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919 (1983), this Court held unconstitutional the congressional veto provision in § 244 (c)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 66 Stat. 216, as amended, 8 U.S.C. § 1254(c)(2), and found it severable from the remainder of that Act. Petitioners, 14 commercial airlines, in the present case contend that provisions protecting employees in the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 (Act), 92 Stat. 1705 (codified at various sections of Title 49 U.S.C.App.), are ineffective because § 43(f)(3) of the Act, 92 Stat. 1752, 49 U.S.C.App. § 1552(f)(3), similarly subjects to a legislative veto implementing regulations issued by the Department of Labor (DOL). We granted certiorari, 475 U.S. 1044 (1986), to consider whether that legislative veto provision is severable from the remainder of the Act.


After 40 years of extensive regulation of the commercial airline industry by the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB), Congress in 1978 [107 S.Ct. 1478] decided to make

a major change and fundamental redirection as to the manner of regulation of interstate and overseas air transportation, so as to place primary emphasis on competition.

S.Rep. No. 95-631, p. 52 (1978). Congress abandoned the industry-wide fare structure gradually, § 37(a), 49 U.S.C.App. § 1482(d); altered the procedures by which airlines could enter new markets, §§ 7 and 8, 49 U.S.C.App. §§ 1371(c) and (d); and phased out the regulatory power of the CAB, eliminating the agency altogether in 1984, § 40(a), 49 U.S.C.App. §§ 1551(a)(1)(A) and (a)(3).

Congress sought to ensure that the benefits to the public flowing from this deregulation would not be "paid for" by airline employees who had relied on the heavily regulated nature of the industry in deciding to accept and to retain positions with commercial air carriers. In order to assist employees dislocated as a result of deregulation, Congress enacted an Employee Protection Program (EPP) as § 43 of

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the Act, 49 U.S.C.App. § 1552. The EPP provides for benefits, in the event of workforce reductions, to "protected employees," who are defined as employees who had been employed by a certified carrier for at least four years as of October 24, 1978, the date the Act became effective. §§ 43(d) and (h)(1).

The first part of the EPP establishes a monthly compensation program. If an airline is forced to make severe workforce reductions or to enter bankruptcy as a result of deregulation, furloughed or terminated eligible "protected employees" are entitled to federally provided monthly assistance payments. §§ 43(a), (c), (e).1 The Secretary of Labor is directed to promulgate guidelines to be used in determining the amount of the monthly assistance payments. § 43(b)(1). The assistance, however, is expressly made "subject to such amounts as are provided in appropriation Acts." § 43(a)(1). No funds have ever been appropriated, and the assistance program has never become operative. It is not at issue here, except insofar as it is relevant to the intent of Congress in providing a legislative veto.

The second portion of the EPP imposes on airlines certified under the prior regulatory system a "duty to hire" protected employees. If a protected employee is "furloughed or otherwise terminated," other than for cause, within 10 years of the enactment date of the statute, that employee has a "first right of hire, regardless of age, in his occupational specialty" with any carrier, covered by the section, who is "hiring additional employees." A hiring airline is permitted, however,

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first to recall any of its own previously furloughed employees. § 43(d)(1). The Act also places on the Secretary the responsibility to assist protected employees in finding other employment, and empowers the Secretary to require air carriers to file information necessary to provide this assistance. § 43(d)(2).

The Secretary "may issue, amend, and repeal such rules and regulations as may be necessary for the administration of [the EPP]." § 43(f)(1). The Act provides that the rule containing the guidelines for monthly assistance payments and

any other rules or regulations which the Secretary deems necessary to carry out this section shall be promulgated within six months after October 24, 1978.

§ 43(f)(2). Congress also included a "report and wait" provision, specifying that no final rule or regulation may be issued until 30 legislative days after it has been submitted to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, [107 S.Ct. 1479] and Transportation and the House Committee on Public Works and Transportation. § 43(f)(3). Finally, the EPP contains the legislative veto provision which gave rise to this litigation. It declares that any final rule issued pursuant to § 43 shall be submitted to Congress, and shall become effective after 60 legislative days unless, during that 60-day period, either House of Congress adopts a resolution disapproving the rule. § 43(f)(3).2


Petitioners are certified carriers subject to the duty-to-hire provisions of the Act and to the regulations promulgated by the Secretary.3 They challenged the EPP in the United

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States District Court for the District of Columbia, contending that the legislative veto provision in § 43 is unconstitutional under Chadha, and that the entire program must be invalidated because the veto provision is nonseverable from the rest of the EPP. Respondent employee unions intervened on behalf of the Secretary. The District Court granted summary judgment for petitioners, striking down the entire EPP, but leaving the remainder of the Act intact. Alaska Airlines, Inc. v. Donovan, 694 F.Supp. 92 (1984). It held the legislative veto provision unconstitutional, and ruled that it could not be severed from the EPP. Respondents appealed the finding of nonseverability. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia...

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