Last week I wrote that it seemed possible that President Obama had successfully pressured Chief Justice John Roberts into switching his opinion and voting to uphold Obamacare.
Now there’s further evidence from CBS that this may indeed have occurred.
CBS reports that Roberts did in fact change his opinion, and that he was indeed susceptible to outside pressure – more so than some of the other justices.
From the story:
Chief Justice John Roberts initially sided with the Supreme Court’s four conservative justices to strike down the heart of President Obama’s health care reform law, the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his position and formed an alliance with liberals to uphold the bulk of the law, according to two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations.
Roberts then withstood a month-long, desperate campaign to bring him back to his original position, the sources said. Ironically, Justice Anthony Kennedy – believed by many conservatives to be the justice most likely to defect and vote for the law – led the effort to try to bring Roberts back to the fold . . .
In the court’s private conference immediately after the arguments, he was aligned with the four conservatives to strike down the mandate . . . Over the next six weeks, as Roberts began to craft the decision striking down the mandate, the external pressure began to grow. Roberts almost certainly was aware of it.
Roberts pays attention to media coverage. As chief justice, he is keenly aware of his leadership role on the court, and he also is sensitive to how the court is perceived by the public.
There were countless news articles in May warning of damage to the court – and to Roberts’ reputation – if the court were to strike down the mandate. Leading politicians, including the president himself, had expressed confidence the mandate would be upheld.
Some even suggested that if Roberts struck down the mandate, it would prove he had been deceitful during his confirmation hearings, when he explained a philosophy of judicial restraint.
It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, “wobbly,” the sources said.
I have trouble explaining Roberts’ opinion other than as a move in response to outside pressure. Obama helped launch this pressure by saying it would be inconceivable for the Court to strike down the law. Likely he would have made Supreme Court bashing a centerpiece of his campaign.
Roberts knew he’d have to take the heat. And so, for this reason perhaps, he got out of the kitchen.