Evoking the “political” consequences of the case, retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said Sunday she wasn’t surprised that Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the court’s liberal wing to uphold the Affordable Care Act.
“No, not really,” she said in a rare media appearance on CBS’ “Face The Nation.”
The Reagan-appointed O’Connor — the first woman on the Supreme Court, who notably tacked to the center during her tenure and was the swing vote in many cases — warned not to read into Roberts’ decision as reflective of an ideological shift on the court.
“That is one important case in a political kind of a situation, and it came out the way it did,” she said. “I don’t think that indicates some trend on the part of the court one way or another.”
Asked if she think it foreshadows a Roberts shift to the ideological center, she said, “I don’t. I don’t see it at all. I see it deciding a very sensitive case with political connotations.”
O’Connor, who retired in 2006, declined to say how she would have voted in the case.
The retired justice also lamented rising public disapproval of the Supreme Court.
“In the past, when the public is asked about three branches of government, the judicial branch has had the highest respect,” she said. “Now, it’s the same for all — it’s all down. It’s a great disappointment to me.”
Asked about infamous 5-4 decision in Bush v. Gore that sealed the outcome of the 2000 presidential race, O’Connor said she has no regrets about voting in the majority, but speculated that it was the beginning of the court’s downward trend in public approval.
O’Connor called it a “tough deal” and said it’s “no fun” to decide such a far-reaching case.
The 2010 Citizens United decision that paved way for unlimited campaign spending in elections, she added, “hasn’t helped.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.