Democrats who have decried past decisions of the Roberts Supreme Court suddenly lauded the chief justice after he provided the critical vote Thursday to uphold most the president’s health care law.
Sen. Charles E. Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, called the action by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. a “welcomed display of judicial independence” and portrayed him as a justice who keeps the law above politics.
“Unlike the GOP’s elected leaders, Roberts can afford to follow the law rather than fret about his standing with the tea party,” he said.
Yet Mr. Schumer voted against the chief justice’s nomination to the Supreme Court in 2005, saying there was “a reasonable danger” that he would be like Justice Clarence Thomas, the “most radical justice on the Supreme Court.”
Rep. Steve Cohen, Tennessee Democrat, said “Justice Roberts rightfully ruled that this [law] was appropriate and constitutional.”
“It was a great day for American health care and for American law and jurisprudence,” he said.
Rep. Christopher S. Murphy, Connecticut Democrat, delivered kudos to the chief justice via Twitter, writing that “sick kids, seniors, small businesses, and the Constitution thank you.”
And Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Democrat and the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, praised Chief Justice Roberts for “abandoning his conservative colleagues on the bench” and for acting “judiciously, not politically.”
President Obama, who as a senator from Illinois in 2005 voted against the chief justice’s nomination to the court, didn’t mention him by name while commenting on the decision during an afternoon news event.
“The highest court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law,” the president said.
Thursday’s decision wasn’t the first time this week that Democrats had cause to praise the chief justice, as he also ruled with a 5-3 majority Monday to strike down most of Arizona’s tough immigration law, which the Obama administration and most Democrats staunchly opposed.
Meanwhile, most congressional Republicans avoided directly criticizing the chief justice, though a few did single him out.
Rep. Paul C. Broun, Georgia Republican and a medical doctor, said Chief Justice Roberts “couldn’t have been more wrong by choosing to circumvent the Constitution this morning.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, dodged the question of whether he was surprised by Chief Justice Roberts‘ decision, saying he was “blessed I’m not a lawyer” and that “it’s not for me to decide.”