The story behind the Supreme Court’s health care decision
A rather riveting and somewhat disturbing piece of journalism from CBS News about the inner story behind Chief Justice Roberts’ late-in-the-game flip-flop:
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.
…The inner-workings of the Supreme Court are almost impossible to penetrate. The court’s private conferences, when the justices discuss cases and cast their initial votes, include only the nine members — no law clerks or secretaries are permitted. The justices are notoriously close-lipped, and their law clerks must agree to keep matters completely confidential. But in this closely-watched case, word of Roberts’ unusual shift has spread widely within the court, and is known among law clerks, chambers’ aides and secretaries. It also has stirred the ire of the conservative justices, who believed Roberts was standing with them.
…[T]he mandate was the ballgame. It required individuals to buy insurance or pay a penalty. Congress had never before in the history of the nation ordered Americans to buy a product from a private company as part of its broad powers to regulate commerce……The case raised entirely new issues of power…It was completely uncharted waters…To strike down the mandate as exceeding the Commerce Clause, the court would have to craft a new theory, which could have opened it up to criticism that it reached out to declare the president’ health care law unconstitutional…Opponents argued that the law exceeded Congress’ power under the Constitution, and an Atlanta-based federal appeals court agreed
…[A]s Roberts began to craft the decision striking down the mandate, the external pressure began to grow. Roberts almost certainly was aware of it…It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law. At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.
Full story: “Roberts switched views to uphold health care law,” CBS News, July 1, 2012