As Breitbart News suggested last week, it appears Chief Justice John Roberts did, in fact, switch his vote on the Obamacare decision under pressure from President Barack Obama, the Democrats, and the mainstream media. John Fund at National Review has more details today–including evidence about a bizarre address by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chair of the Judiciary Committee, that singled out Roberts himself:
Indeed, Senator Patrick Leahy (Vt., D.) , the chair of the Judiciary Committee, suddenly took to the floor on May 14 and directly addressed Roberts, urging him in harshly partisan tones to uphold Obamacare and maintain “the proper role of the judicial branch.”
Stewart Baker, a partner at the Washington law firm Steptoe & Johnson, writes at the Volokh Conspiracy that he found the whole campaign against Roberts weird and unusual, given that the justices’ conference vote on Obamacare had been held six weeks earlier. Why “would the chair of the Judiciary Committee risk the appearance of trying to harshly strongarm the Court when his remarks wouldn’t make the slightest difference?” he asks. “The Leahy speech reads like it was written for an audience of one. It offers flattery and it offers threats, all of them personalized to appeal to Chief Justice Roberts alone.”
Fund adds that the White House likely benefited from leaks at the Court, and almost certainly knew of Roberts’s switch–just as it almost certainly knew of the initial vote to throw out the individual mandate in March:
The week before the Supreme Court announced its decision, the White House was clearly hinting to many in the media and on Capitol Hill that they expected a 5-4 opinion that would hinge on the taxing-power issue. Did someone leak? Sunday on Face the Nation, Jan Crawford of CBS News said that two reliable sources told her that Roberts originally voted, in late March, with the four conservative justices to invalidate the individual mandate. According to Crawford, Roberts suddenly changed sides some six weeks later and then resisted “a month-long desperate campaign by the conservative justices to bring him back to the fold.”
I’ve learned from my own sources that after voting to invalidate the mandate, the chief did express some skepticism about joining the four conservatives in throwing out the whole law. At the justices’ conference, there was discussion about accepting the Obama administration’s argument, which was that, if the individual mandate was removed, the provisions governing community rating and guaranteed issue of insurance would have to go too but that the rest of the law might stand. The chief justice was equivocal, though, in his views on that point.
The more the public learns about Roberts’s decision, the more people are likely to hate it. Fund notes that even David Brooks of the New York Times agrees that Roberts “had to get to a certain result, and he was going to find a way by hook or by crook.” It’s a conclusion that aptly expresses how Obamacare was conceived, how it was passed, and now how it has been upheld by one of the worst decisions in recent years.