Roberts Changed Vote to Uphold ACA


Chief Justice John Roberts originally planned to vote with the Supreme Court’s conservative bloc to strike down the Affordable Care Act, but later changed his vote to uphold the law, according to a report by CBS News.

The report confirms rampant speculation that Roberts switched to uphold the law, and gives insight into the deliberations that led the Supreme Court to uphold Obamacare with a 5-4 ruling in National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius.

According to the report, Roberts’ change was met by a month-long lobbying effort from Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, who tried to get the Chief Justice to reverse his decision and join Kennedy and Associate Justices Samuel Alito, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas in striking down the law.

“[Kennedy] was relentless,” said one source according to the report. “He was very engaged in this.”

After it became clear that Roberts would not rejoin the minority, the four conservative justices then put together an unusual, unsigned joint defense, which an animated Kennedy read from the bench on Thursday.

The report suggests that Roberts’ decision to change his position was based, in part, on coverage 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.

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.

While it’s impossible to know exactly what led Roberts to change his mind, it appears his decision was based in part on a fear of making the court appear even more partisan. The Roberts court has been under fire for its fealty to business interests and for its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which struck down limits on the amount of money corporations can spend to back political candidates.

Whatever the case, it is highly unlikely that any of the conspiracy theories surrounding Roberts’ vote change have a grounding in fact. Conservative opponents of the ACA have suggested any number of reasons why the usually-reliable Roberts might have switched sides, including writers who speculated that Roberts’ family had been threatened by Barack Obama.


Related Stories

The Umpire Returns: Roberts’ Decision In The Affordable Care Act

Politicos React to Obamacare Ruling

BREAKING: SCOTUS Upholds Obama’s Health Care Law’s Individual Mandate


Image Credit: Amanda Bossard, Medill News Service


Frances C.
Frances C7 years ago

I also do not trust Justice Roberts, anyone who would pass such a destructive bill - Citizens United- doesn't have all his faculties together. Citizens United is nothing more than a sop to the super wealthy and the tea party right wing voters. Having said that, it is good that ACA was passed as it will insure millions of people who otherwise would have no insurance, and the other good provisions in the bill. Contrary to the lies spread by the righties it does not increase taxes on the American people. It only increases penalty taxes on the few who want to free load off the majority who purchase health insurance.

We must work hard to unseat the tea party radicals. Find your Democratic Club to volunteer. One important goal is to work with them to find and register voters who have unfairly been purged from the voter rolls.

Elsie O.
Elsie A. O7 years ago

Well, I'm glad he approved the ACA, but I still don't trust Roberts, and I have serious doubts about his reasons for the approval.
After all, why WOULDN'T he approve it? The individual mandate is a right-winger's dream! Although Obama didn't originally want it to be that way, the ACA includes a requirement to purchase a private product, with no public (or government-sponsored) option to compete with that private product. It's an enormous gift to the insurance industry, and it sets the stage for the conservative agenda of privatizing everything. :-(

Dr Clue
Dr Clue7 years ago

Changing ones mind in the face of evolving facts and reasoning can and should be considered a positive thing as long as such changes of mind are faithful to the office they hold and the oaths of public service they take.

Teresa Cowley
Teresa Cowley7 years ago

Personally, I don't CARE if or why Roberts changed his vote--I'm just glad he did.
It is shameful and disgraceful that so many Americans have no health care.
It is shameful and disgraceful that so many Americans have no jobs.
It is shameful and disgraceful that Republicans are focusing on hating gays and women instead of taking care of the problems facing this country.
It is shameful and disgraceful that our jobs are being out-sourced over-seas.
"Speed-up" is shameful and disgraceful--another form of slavery.

Let's face it.
Most of the "representatives" we sent to Washington to "work for us", are stealing from us, and laughing at us as they do it--they sell their souls, and ours, to Big Corporations, who are actually ruling the world.
If we object, maintaining that "this is illegal", they change the laws,
If we object, our "representatives" go to the nine ring-wraiths (excuse me, the infallible "supreme court"), who declare that "corporations are people".
If Monsanto takes over food production world-wide and starts poisoning us, we can't even get GMO labels on our food, to protect us!
This then, on our Independence Day, is what we have to bequeath our children and their children?
This is shameful and disgraceful!
Corporations ARE NOT PEOPLE AND NEVER WILL BE--God (or biology if you prefer) creates people, the supreme court never can,
Monsanto is NOT GOD (or science, if you prefer)--they cannot give us nutritious food, only poison.
The Big Nine are not infalli

Phillip Ferrell
Phillip Ferrell7 years ago

@Craig G. Why don't you go some place where you're welcome, like yahoo news?

Craig Gosling
Craig Gosling7 years ago

Roberts will soon have the opportunity to take back his conservative credentials, so get ready for it liberals.

Frances C.
Frances C7 years ago

Looks like Judge Roberts is getting a taste of the ugliness of the tea party R's. He now knows what it feels like to be trashed because they don't agree with his decision. Democrats have known their right wing radical tactics for years. These people are not nice.

Yvette T.
Past Member 7 years ago

It is the job of the court to uphold the laws. The ACA was engineered brilliantly, following all laws. President Obama is a Constitutional Scholar, and knows his stuff!

Actually, by changing the definition so that those who are able to afford paying for health insurance and refuse to do so will be penalized as a TAX makes it easier for Republicans to strike the Affordable Care Act later. Tricky. They'll move in on us losing our rights to Affordable Health Care again. They are such jerks. We all need and deserve to be cared for when we have medical problems!

William and Kat Dresbach
Katie & Bill D7 years ago


Duane B.
.7 years ago

Thank you for sharing.