Has the United States Congress ever repealed legislation, rather than amend the legislation or let the legislation be annulled by the Supreme Court?

It seems to me that once a law is passed it becomes very difficult to remove such law even if it becomes evident the law is absurd or detrimental. Even the most notorious laws in the US only get amended so to remove the most sharp edges, or get repelled by the courts as unconstitutional.

But, are there any counter-examples where the US Congress opted to repeal a law?

  • 3
    What about the 21st Amendment? It repealed the 18th. Commented May 30, 2012 at 1:28
  • 1
    See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…
    – Opt
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 1:46
  • 1
    The only way to repeal an amendment is with another [new] Amendment, Anixx. Commented May 30, 2012 at 2:16
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    @Anixx: I think in the US too a law can be passed declaring the provisions of a previous law null & void. In fact, if you read the text of laws, a lot of them have language changing previous laws by saying stuff like this and this line should be struck or this and this line should be changed to this other line. I don't know of a law however whose sole purpose was to strike out a previous law except for the 21st amendement. Also the US constitution has changed over the past 300 years so it's not like it's the exact same constitution as in the beginning
    – Opt
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 3:03
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    @Sid, as far as I understand OP asks for an example of law that was completely (full-text) declared null by the consequent law. Commented May 30, 2012 at 7:08

4 Answers 4


The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850


It was the law of the land. It was repealed June 28, 1864...14 years and a Civil War later. The ACA may have a similar affect on our country.

  • This formally fits the criteria, but it seems the repealation was linked to the results of the civil war: the winning side was changing the laws according to their new ideology.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 17, 2017 at 19:52

There are several types of repeals.

First, there are partial repeals where a poorly crafted portion of a law causes problems. For example, the onerous 1099 reporting section of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) was repealed. The rest of the law remains intact so far but that portion was repealed. Another recent example would be how the Patriot Act (2001), the Terrorist Surveillance Act (2006) and the Protect America Act (2007) effectively gutted provisions of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Next, there are repeal and replace laws. In some cases, a previous law is explicitly repealed and replaced with another law. In other cases, the law is implicitly replaced and rendered moot without it being formally repealed. This has been done many times. One recent example would be how the Great Depression era Glass–Steagall banking acts were implicitly and explicitly repealed by various acts, most notably the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999.

And, there have been outright repeals without a replacement. In this situation, a law or regulation is repealed and the act does not contain any replacement law or regulatory authority. One recent example would be the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010. Another example would be the repeal of laws prohibiting private ownership of gold bullion by US citizens. Sodomy and 'blue' laws have been another common area where laws have been repealed without replacement.


As far as I understand you can use Food and Fuel Control Act of August 10, 1917 as a counter-example.

  1. It was an independent public act approved by 65th Congress. (not a list of changes to previous acts)
  2. It was repealed entirely by the Joint Resolution of 66th Congress at March 3, 1921 (with other wartime acts)

Certain sections of Act were amended in between the two dates.

  • 2
    Thanks. I also would like to know where there similar cases in peace time.
    – Anixx
    Commented May 30, 2012 at 8:21

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1964 outlawed various forms of discrimation, although what they outlawed were mostly State laws it's hard to say if this is what you are looking for; since you don't make a distinction on what laws Congress has repealed. Most notably, around the same time in 1973 Congress passed the War Powers Resolution, this measure replaced the 1964 Tonkin Gulf Resolution which in effect repealed it. As noted by jfrankcarr many existing Acts were repealed by further acts, in general Congress amends laws, it's rare for them to be repealed, but in many cases as well the Executive Branch (the President) just doesn't enforce laws that either it doesn't agree with or doesn't think are effective any more.

As an aside Anti-Miscenigation laws were repealed, on a State level, but on a Federal level were never able to be enacted - although this was attempted these attempts were for Amendments to be added so that Anti-Miscenigation laws would be law of the land. Never happened though.

You can find out more here: how to repeal a law

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