Ginsburg: Expect "sharp disagreement" in SCOTUS rulings

Sometimes, if you have nothing to say, it’s probably best to say nothing at all. This is an old saw which was apparently lost on Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg this week, when she decided to take time out of her busy schedule and talk about the court’s upcoming decisions – including the one on the Obamacare mandate – by not really saying anything.

With a wry smile, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg laid waste Friday to all those rumors about the fate of the Affordable Care Act in the Supreme Court.

“Those who know don’t talk. And those who talk don’t know,” she quipped Friday night at a conference hosted by the American Constitution Society at the Capital Hilton.

Ginsburg said she was responding to a “steady stream of rumors and fifth-hand accounts” about the court’s deliberations on the law.

Careful not to tip her hand on the court’s ruling — expected in the next two weeks — Ginsburg described the oral arguments in the case as unprecedented for the number of “press conferences, prayer circles, protests and counterprotests” that occurred on the courthouse steps.

This does confirm one thing, however, which some of us have debated from time to time. The Justices absolutely do keep track of their own press coverage and are aware of the ebb and flow in the tide of public opinion. Lady Justice may be blind, but she definitely has access to cable TV.

A second quote from the event let another hint slip through the wall of silence.

The 21 remaining decisions, she said, were “many of the most controversial cases” that the court reviewed this term.

“It is likely that the sharp disagreement rate will go up next week and the week after,” she said.

That one shouldn’t be too hard to translate. Yet again, rather than finding some clear, general consensus on what the Constitution of the United States actually says and how it applies to the cases in question, we can expect yet another series of inflammatory rulings on high profile cases where the court splits 5-4 along partisan lines. (A concept which you might think most people would abhor in a body which is ostensibly non-partisan in nature.) Public faith in the court has been falling and may soon bottom out in the realm of the favorability of Congress.

So when Anthony Kennedy… I’m sorry, I mean the court… finishes ruling on all of these cases, what will the President and Democrats in general do if a significant portions of the rulings go against them? They have no idea.

Congressional Democrats who wrote Barack Obama’s health care plan into law say they’re getting virtually no guidance from the White House on how to deal with the fallout if the Supreme Court overturns any part of the law.

There have been no meetings, no phone calls and no paper exchanged with the administration, according to Democratic lawmakers and staff. The top aides to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, David Krone and John Lawrence, did meet with the White House’s chief congressional lobbyist, Rob Nabors, last week to discuss a variety of issues.

But Nabors didn’t provide any information on how the president plans to approach the court’s ruling, according to sources familiar with the meeting.

This is a bit of an odd duck to begin with, as political news coverage goes. What the White House or congressional Democrats plan to “do” if Obamacare is struck down is pretty much irrelevant, beyond what sort of excuses to make, who to blame and how to try to spin it. Once the Supremes speak the party is pretty much over. There is no higher appeal… at least until a significant number of them are gone and replaced with a new slate of partisan bulldogs.

My prediction? I still think they’re going to punt on Obamacare, claiming either that the law hasn’t ripened to the point where anyone can demonstrate damages from it or that none of the plaintiffs have standing to bring the case in the first place. But if they do rule definitively one way or the other, it’s going to bring the long, hot, dog days of summer into the political kitchen well ahead of schedule.

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Jazz Shaw 8:31 AM on December 04, 2022