How unusual was Chief Justice Roberts’s vote in the 2012 health care case? Very. It remains the only 5-to-4 decision in which he joined the four liberal members of the court, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan….
As a backup argument, Mr. Verrilli had said the justices should defer to the interpretation of the Internal Revenue Service, which says subsidies are available nationwide, if they found the health care law itself to be ambiguous.
“If you’re right,” Chief Justice Roberts asked Mr. Verrilli, “that would indicate that a subsequent administration could change that interpretation?”
Mr. Verrilli, resisting a victory that might vanish in 2016, urged the court to rule on the basis of the statute itself.
That comment from Chief Justice Roberts was the closest he came to probing the core of the case before him. It did almost nothing to tip his hand.
The best evidence of his views may well still be found in part of his 2012 health care opinion, one joined by no other justice.
“It is not our job,” he wrote, “to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”