Report: Roberts Originally Voted to Strike Down Obamacare

Sunday, 01 Jul 2012 04:31 PM

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Chief Justice John Roberts originally sided with conservatives who wanted to overturn Obamacare but then switched positions on the Affordable Care Act to ultimately side with liberal justices, according to a CBS report released Sunday.

The highly detailed report, quoting anonymous sources apparently close to the Supreme Court, reveals many details concerning the super-secretive negotiations that go on behind the scenes during major deliberations.

“Two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations" told CBS that Roberts originally sided with the four conservative justices in declaring the individual mandate unconstitutional.

Special: Should Obama's Health Plan Be Overturned? Vote Here Now!

Together, that 5-vote majority of justices would have struck down the entire law because they believed the mandate was essential to the entire system of Obamacare being able to function.

But while Roberts agreed that the individual mandate was unconstitutional under Congress' power to regulate commerce, he felt less strongly about whether the entire law should fall.

Roberts switched positions to side with the liberal justices, perhaps in response to increasing pressure from outside the Court to rule in favor of the law, CBS reports. The conservative justices tried to lobby him back, but he wouldn’t budge and in fact attempted to convince Justice Anthony Kennedy to join him on the decision to make the court appear more unified on the issue.

CBS also reports that Justices Kennedy and Antonin Scalia wrote most of the dissent, and that speculation that parts of the dissent were originally written by Roberts before he changed his mind are incorrect.

"He was relentless," one source told CBS of Kennedy's efforts to sway Roberts. "He was very engaged in this."

But Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, "You're on your own."

The article suggests that Roberts was as concerned with his reputation and the Court's popular standing as he was with the merits of the case.

"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," the article states.

Special: Should Obama's Health Plan Be Overturned? Vote Here Now!

"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."

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