Supreme Court Votes on Healthcare Today as 1 Vote May Be The Decider

Ernie Shannon's picture

The nine Supreme Court justices, absent clerks, staff, and anyone else, gathers in their chamber today and casts votes in favor of or in opposition to the Affordable Care Act. After three days of arguments and with those proceedings fresh in their minds, the justices will vote and then begin the laborious process of putting their thinking to paper in the form of written opinions. The question is: how will they vote? To listen to the pundits assess the week’s events in Washington, D.C., several interesting veins of thought has emerged.


It is expected that conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito, Jr., are sure to strike against the health care reform law while liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg are locked in to support the law as constitutional. That is a 4 to 3 vote in favor of ACA. More mysterious is how Justices Anthony Kennedy and Chief Justice John Roberts will vote. The popular thinking has been that Roberts will side with the nays leaving Kennedy as the swing vote – likely to go either way.

However, another line of thought has evolved that if Kennedy sides with the liberals on the court Roberts will then sign on with them to avoid a 5 to 4 decision .There is concern on the court, particularly with Roberts, that there have been too many recent five to four decisions potentially causing a loss of respect for the court. Commentators who are voicing this theory say the concern on the court is especially keen regarding landmark decisions. Such divided opinions, the commentators suggest, drain the court of the power and influence it wields. Therefore, to avoid a divided and controversial result, Roberts would side with the liberal judges and Kennedy, bringing about a 6 to 3 decision. Then, by virtue of his position as chief justice, Roberts would assign himself to write the court’s opinion and construct that opinion in such narrow terms as to limit the government’s ability to ever expand the mandate to purchase health insurance or any other aspect of the health care law.

On the other hand, some constitutional experts are of a mind that the justices should rule solely on their belief in the legality of the Affordable Care Act. Whether the vote is 7 to 2 or 5 to 4, constitutional adherence is sacrosanct. To do otherwise, they say, would politicize the court and make it predisposed to winds of popular opinion.

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