Report: Sources say Roberts switched vote in healthcare case

CBS News says it has confirmed that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts changed his vote in the court’s landmark healthcare case.

Legal circles have been buzzing since Thursday with speculation that Roberts might have initially sided with the court’s conservatives in a decision to strike down part of President Obama’s healthcare law, but then changed his mind at the last minute.

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The speculation had been based mostly around interpretations of the court’s written opinions. But CBS legal correspondent Jan Crawford reported Sunday that sources "with specific knowledge of the deliberations" confirmed Roberts’s switch.

According to Crawford’s reporting, Roberts was against the individual mandate when the justices took their initial votes following oral arguments in March. He, along with the other four Republican appointees, believed it was an inappropriate use of Congress’s power to regulate commerce.

But the justices did not reach an agreement on how much of the law to strike down. Over the course of that debate, as the conservative bloc pushed hard to throw out the entire statute, Roberts changed his mind and voted to uphold the law, Crawford reported.


She said Roberts lobbied Justice Anthony Kennedy to join him, and then the court’s conservatives engaged in a “desperate” lobbying campaign to bring Roberts back to their side.

Crawford’s reporting shoots down a big piece of the previous speculation about Roberts’s vote.

Some legal experts thought the dissenting opinion was originally intended to be the majority opinion, mostly because it focuses primarily on Congress’s power under the Commerce Clause — a position where Roberts and the dissenters agreed. Roberts ultimately upheld the mandate under Congress’s taxing power.

But Crawford said that’s not the case. The dissent was written after Roberts changed his mind, she said. The conservatives refused to join the sections of Roberts’s opinion they agreed with because they were angry, her sources said.