Republicans: Et tu, John Roberts?
By MANU RAJU and JAKE SHERMAN | 6/28/12 1:18 PM EDT Updated: 6/28/12 2:21 PM EDT
Et tu, Roberts?
Republicans on Capitol Hill were in a state of shock Thursday that Chief Justice John Roberts, their longtime ally on the court, sided with liberals in upholding the health care law.
‘I thought he was the champion of limited government,’ Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) told POLITICO. Wilson famously yelled ‘You lie!’ to the president during his 2009 health care speech before a joint session of Congress.
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said he was ‘surprised’ by Roberts and ‘uneasy’ about the court’s interpretation that the individual mandate was constitutional as a tax, but not under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. Sessions was struggling to understand how Roberts reached that key conclusion.
‘I am stunned and shocked, somewhat confused, by the decision, by the nature of the decision, by the nature of the majority and by the nature of the reasoning,’ said Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) on the floor. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), a tea party favorite, also described himself as ‘shocked’ by the turn of events.
And, grasping for an explanation, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) remarked: ‘As a lawyer, I can see where Roberts is concerned about the institution and maybe that explains it?
‘It’s hard to look into the minds of these justices,’ Portman added.
Roberts — the architect of the 2010 Citizens United ruling that opened the door to unlimited spending by outside groups in elections and a frequent boogeyman of the left — joined the court’s four liberal justices in saying that Congress had the authority to force most Americans to buy health insurance through its constitutional powers of taxation. The court’s three conservative justices, along with swing vote Anthony Kennedy, voted to strike down the law in its entirety.