US Supreme Court Keeps Trump on Colorado Ballot, Ruling Only Congress Can Enforce Insurrection Clause

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In a unanimous decision, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a Colorado Supreme Court decision removing former President Donald Trump from the state’s primary ballot under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.  The Court found that states lack power to remove federal officers under the 14th Amendment, but disagreed on who should enforce Section 3 at the federal level.

Last December, in a shocking 4-3 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified Trump from holding the office of president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. The court paused its ruling pending an appeal and final decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. By reversing the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision today, the Court’s ruling not only places Trump back on the primary ballot in Colorado, but also impacts the 16 ongoing challenges to his eligibility across the country, including Illinois and Maine

In January, Trump asked the nation’s highest court to determine whether the state Supreme Court erred in removing him from the ballot. After the Court heard oral argument last month on Feb. 8, both liberal and conservative justices appeared skeptical of arguments in favor of removing Trump from Colorado’s primary ballot. 

In today’s opinion, the Court brought clarity to legal questions surrounding Trump’s eligibility. The Court held that “the Constitution makes Congress, rather than the States, responsible for enforcing Section 3 against federal officeholders and candidates.” The Supreme Court found that while state officials may disqualify candidates for state office under the 14th Amendment, these officials do not hold the same power in removing candidates for federal office, including the presidency. 

While the justices agreed that Trump should remain on the ballot, they disagreed on who possesses constitutional authority under Section 3. 

The three liberal justices on the Court blasted the conservative majority for concluding that only Congress can enforce Section 3: 

Although only an individual State’s action is at issue here, the majority opines on which federal actors can enforce Section 3, and how they must do so. The majority announces that a disqualification for insurrection can occur only when Congress enacts a particular kind of legislation pursuant to Section 5 of the Fourteenth Amendment. In doing so, the majority shuts the door on other potential means of federal enforcement. We cannot join an opinion that decides momentous and difficult issues unnecessarily, and we therefore concur only in the judgment.

In the midst of disagreements, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, in a separate concurrence, also added that this case did not “require us to address the complicated question whether federal legislation is the exclusive vehicle through which Section 3 can be enforced.”

However, she added that today’s decision “settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a Presidential election.” She implored the liberal justices to “turn the national temperature down, not up.”

Importantly, the Court did not make a determination on whether Trump’s actions constituted an insurrection. 

As a result of today’s opinion, Trump will remain on the ballot in Colorado and the other 14th Amendment challenges being waged in 16 other states are effectively resolved — an outcome celebrated by Trump on Truth Social just minutes after the opinion dropped: “BIG WIN FOR AMERICA!!!” 

Read the opinion here. 

Learn more about the case here. 

Learn more about Section 3 of the 14th Amendment here.