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On Thursday the Supreme Court of the United States delivered two key decisions which reaffirmed its role as an independent institution, as both liberal and conservative judges found common agreement (a scarce resource today) in highly politicized issues: Obamacare and Religious freedom. In these decisions, the Supreme Court asserted its independence, showing that the constitution, and not cheap partisan talking points, is the compass that guides its decisions.
Not a judicial arm of the GOP
The constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, which has been the law of the land since its approval in 2010, has been defied multiple times by conservative advocates. While the intricate legal arguments over the constitutional merits of Obamacare have sparked an interesting and lively debate among legal scholars for years, the latest decision by the Court appears to shut down the judicial route for an overturn of Obamacare, it would be Congress who would need to change the law if it wants to.
The court reaffirmed (for a third time) the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, by a 7-2 vote. Despite the fearmongering of many Democrats (including Vicepresident Harris), who raised the alarm last year saying that the confirmation of ACB would bring the imminent destruction of Obamacare.
The reality was a far cry from that, Amy Coney Barrett voted for upholding Obamacare, so did Judge Thomas, Kavanaugh and Williams. Three of those judges would have good personal reasons to hold a grudge against Democrats. With the confirmations of Thomas and Kavanaugh being mired in sexual harassment allegations, and Barrett being dragged into a partisan fight over her confirmation in the midst of the 2020 election.
In fact, many liberals called the nomination of ACB an inevitable partisan grab of the judiciary by the GOP. A few even said that ACB would be a pivotal piece in Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election.
Although Trump did try (in various ways) to overturn the election, the courts didn’t play along. Not only did the vast majority of the lawsuits introduced by the Trump campaign were dismissed, the Supreme Court itself decided to dismiss a Texas lawsuit against the certification of some state results where Biden won. All three of Trump’s nominees voted against hearing the case, despite the fact that a substantial number of GOP lawmakers moved for the bill to be heard.
If the GOP wanted to nominate a bunch of partisan fanatics to the highest court of the land, as part of their nefarious plan to rule the nation forever, then they definitely did a lousy job.
Another unanimous decision
The other case the court resolved also showed us that the three “liberal” judges might have different views on American jurisprudence, but they’re judges, not freshman representatives on the short dial of Speaker Pelosi.
The court resolved (unanimously) that prohibiting a catholic organization dedicated to providing adoption services to continue their association with the Pennsylvania government due to their treatment of same-sex couple be unconstitutional.
In Pennsylvania, there is a broad no discrimination policy for the contractors that the government hires, which would prevent this catholic organization to work with their government as they do not grant adoption screening processes to same-sex couples due to their religious beliefs.
However, the law allows for exceptions to be granted. In its opinion, the court decided that the catholic organization should be granted such an exception as it would violate the catholic organization’s first amendment rights.
According to Chief Justice Roberts, the rights of LGBT couples were not impaired, as there are other twenty organizations that grant that process for same-sex couples. For the court, the government did not have a compelling interest to cause “religious hardship” to the catholic organization.
The issue of religious beliefs is by no means solved and is quite sure that similar cases will continue to be brought to the Court’s attention in the future. However, yesterday’s judgement shows us that, despite the personal political views of some judges, Supreme Court justices will ultimately appeal to legal arguments and make judgements based on their constitutionality, not on political beliefs.
The partisan fight over judicial nominations have been escalating for years, with Democrats using the “nuclear option” and eliminating Filibusters for judicial appointments in 2013, Republicans blocking the nomination of Merrick Garland after Justice Scalia’s death, and last year’s confirmation of Amy Comey Barret after the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg brought the issue of the Court to the center of the 2020 Presidential campaign.
Republicans have played hardball over the issue of judicial nominations and many Democrats want to respond to that by “packing the court”. Both factions most likely made their calculations thinking that a judge will consistently vote in the Conservative or Liberal side of an issue. While this might be partly correct, yesterday’s rulings show us that, once confirmed, Supreme Court Justices cannot be pressured by politicians to do their bidding.
Sure, it would be extremely naive to think that judicial appointments are free from political interests, after all, each nominee’s constitutional philosophy and personal opinions will certainly have an effect on their rulings. However, it would be outrageous to think that justices will toe the party line once on the bench.
To the dismay of those who want to pack the court and to the many who expected the Courts would give Trump a win in an election he lost, Supreme Court judges are not politicians with robes, and we should all be thankful for that.
Daniel is a Political Science and Economics student from the University of South Florida. He worked as a congressional intern to Rep. Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) from January to May 2020. He also is the head of international analysis at Politiks // Daniel es un estudiante de Cs Políticas y Economía en la Universidad del Sur de la Florida. Trabajo como pasante legislativo para el Representate Gus Bilirakis (FL-12) desde enero hasta mayo del 2020. Daniel también es el jefe de análisis internacional de Politiks.