In his majority 5-4 opinion on Thursday, Chief Justice John Roberts upheld the constitutionality of the signature domestic policy achievement of President Barack Obama’s administration, the Affordable Care Act. In doing so, he and his court earned the ire of conservatives.
“This was an activist court that you saw today,” Tea Party favorite Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) told reporters. “Anytime the Supreme Court renders something constitutional that is clearly unconstitutional, that undermines the credibility of the Supreme Court. I do believe the court’s credibility was undermined severely today,” she said, later adding that Congress could now force you to buy Ikea furniture.
“The Supreme Court has abandoned us,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) said.
“Today’s decision by the Supreme Court of the United States is simply disappointing,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) said. “I stand with Justice Kennedy that the entire act should have been held invalid.”
Outrage over Roberts’ decision also blew up online. Former George W. Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer tweeted, “I miss Justice Harriet Miers,” referring to the nominee who withdrew after being questioned by conservatives. Rep. Dennis Ross (R-Fla.) tweeted that he was “truly disappointed in Justice Roberts and others who allowed this assault on the Republic stand” — and later deleted the tweet. Conservative writer Ben Shapiro tweeted, “Chief Justice Roberts was the worst part of the Bush legacy.”
The sentiment was mirrored in the press, with The Daily Caller splashing: “ROBERTS REVOLTS! Chief Justice Roberts swings left.” Founder and president of the Media Research Center Brent Bozell told the conservative online publication: “His reputation is forever stained in the eyes of conservatives, and there will be no rehabilitating of it. He will be seen as a traitor to his philosophy.”
Roberts began serving on the court in 2005, after being nominated at the young age of 50 by President George W. Bush. His court has previously ruled to ease campaign contribution limits, strike down D.C.’s gun control law and allow evidence obtained from unlawful arrests to be used in court — decisions that outraged liberals.
But Roberts did not abandon all conservative legal arguments. He defended the individual mandate as a tax, but did reject the Obama administration’s defense of it under the commerce clause.
“The individual mandate, however, does not regulate existing commercial activity. It instead compels individuals to become active in commerce by purchasing a product, on the ground that their failure to do so affects interstate commerce,” he wrote. “Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority.”
He later remarked, adopting a line from Justice Antonin Scalia in oral arguments, “Under the Government’s theory, Congress could address the diet problem by ordering everyone to buy vegetables.”
Ultimately, however, Roberts sided against conservatives and upheld Obama’s foremost domestic policy.