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CBS: Roberts Switched His Vote in Obamacare Case

7:28 PM, Jul 1, 2012 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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CBS's Jan Crawford has a must-read report on the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision:

After the historic oral arguments in March, the two knowledgeable sources said, Roberts and the four conservatives were poised to strike down at least the individual mandate. There were other issues being argued - severability and the Medicaid extension - but the mandate was the ballgame. […]

On this point - Congress' commerce power - Roberts agreed. In the Court's private conference immediately after the arguments, he was aligned with the four conservatives to strike down the mandate.

Roberts was less clear on whether that also meant the rest of the law must fall, the source said. The other four conservatives believed that the mandate could not be lopped off from the rest of the law and that, since one key part was unconstitutional, the entire law must be struck down.

So why did Roberts change his mind? It is not clear. Sources tell Crawford that Roberts started to go "wobbly" in May:

Roberts pays attention to media coverage. As Chief Justice, he is keenly aware of his leadership role on the Court, and he also is sensitive to how the Court is perceived by the public.

There were countless news articles in May warning of damage to the Court - and to Roberts' reputation - if the Court were to strike down the mandate. Leading politicians, including the President himself, had expressed confidence the mandate would be upheld.

Some even suggested that if Roberts struck down the mandate, it would prove he had been deceitful during his confirmation hearings, when he explained a philosophy of judicial restraint.

It was around this time that it also became clear to the conservative justices that Roberts was, as one put it, "wobbly," the sources said.

It is not known why Roberts changed his view on the mandate and decided to uphold the law. At least one conservative justice tried to get him to explain it, but was unsatisfied with the response, according to a source with knowledge of the conversation.

Be sure to read Crawford's entire behind-the-scenes report here.

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