The lower courts ruled that this case involves a political question because deciding Zivotofsky’s claim would force the Judicial Branch to interfere with the President’s exercise of constitutional power committed to him alone. The District Court understood Zivotofsky to ask the courts to “decide the political status of Jerusalem.” 511 F. Supp. 2d, at 103. This misunderstands the issue presented. Zivotofsky does not ask the courts to determine whether Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. He instead seeks to determine whether he may vindicate his statutory right, under §214(d), to choose to have Israel recorded on his passport as his place of birth....
The federal courts are not being asked to supplant a foreign policy decision of the political branches with the courts’ own unmoored determination of what United States policy toward Jerusalem should be. Instead, Zivotofsky requests that the courts enforce a specific statutory right. To resolve his claim, the Judiciary must decide if Zivotofsky’s interpretation of the statute is correct, and whether the statute is constitutional. This is a familiar judicial exercise.
Moreover, because the parties do not dispute the interpretation of §214(d), the only real question for the courts is whether the statute is constitutional. At least since Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137 (1803), we have recognized that when an Act of Congress is alleged to conflict with the Constitution, “[i]t is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is.” Id., at 177. That duty will sometimes involve the “[r]esolution of litigation challenging the constitutional authority of one of the three branches,” but courts cannot avoid their responsibility merely “because the issues have political implications.” INS v. Chadha, 462 U. S. 919, 943 (1983)....Thus, there is no "textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department." Are there "judicially discoverable and manageable standards"? It might seem so if you think the question is the political status of Jerusalem, the Chief writes, but the issue is whether the statute is constitutional: Can Congress interfere with the Executive and create the right that Zivotofsky now asserts? The answer may be no, but that's the answer on the substantive constitutional merits, not a determination that the courts may not reach the substantive merits. Reciting all the arguments for and against congressional power, Roberts reject the notion that they show why judges cannot answer the question:
Resolution of Zivotofksy’s claim demands careful examination of the textual, structural, and historical evidence put forward by the parties regarding the nature of the statute and of the passport and recognition powers. This is what courts do.So the "political question" argument fails and the case returns to the D.C. Circuit court to get on to the substantive merits.