Why Roberts may be­come a swing vote

The Week (US) - - 12 News - Lawrence Baum and Neal Devins

The Washington Post “Democrats might find a sur­pris­ing sil­ver lin­ing” in Brett Ka­vanaugh’s as­cen­sion to the Supreme Court, said Lawrence Baum and Neal Devins. Chief Jus­tice John Roberts may take a cou­ple of steps to the cen­ter, in or­der to re­strain the new con­ser­va­tive ma­jor­ity’s im­pact. Roberts is quite con­ser­va­tive him­self, but as chief, “he has a spe­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity re­gard­ing the court as an in­sti­tu­tion,” and he has ex­pressed con­cern that the pub­lic will come to see the jus­tices as nakedly par­ti­san ac­tors mak­ing de­ci­sions on 5-4, party-line votes. In the past, Roberts has some­times mod­er­ated his con­ser­vatism to lower the par­ti­san tem­per­a­ture, such as when he cast the de­cid­ing vote to up­hold the Af­ford­able Care Act in 2012. For the same rea­son, he is likely to steer the court’s agenda away from abor­tion, cam­paign fi­nance, and other hot-but­ton is­sues for at least a year or two, and even some­times serve as a swing vote on cases the court does take, sid­ing with pro­gres­sives. This doesn’t mean Roberts will truly re­place re­tired Jus­tice An­thony Kennedy as “a ju­di­cial mod­er­ate.” But Ka­vanaugh’s as­cen­sion to the court “might not af­fect the court’s poli­cies” as dra­mat­i­cally as Democrats fear.

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