‘Naked Power Grab’

The usually subdued Linda Greenhouse, who covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times for years, is apoplectic about the court’s surprise decision to take up Obamacare subsidies even as the circuit courts are still grappling with the issue.

Here’s a sampling:

This is a naked power grab by conservative justices who two years ago just missed killing the Affordable Care Act in its cradle, before it fully took effect.

There is simply no way to describe what the court did last Friday as a neutral act.

So this case is rich in almost every possible dimension. Its arrival on the Supreme Court’s docket is also profoundly depressing. In decades of court-watching, I have struggled — sometimes it has seemed against all odds — to maintain the belief that the Supreme Court really is a court and not just a collection of politicians in robes. This past week, I’ve found myself struggling against the impulse to say two words: I surrender.

I’ve struggled to maintain the same belief. It seems almost quaint now. For example, I used to resist when reporters wanted to overfocus on whether a federal judge was nominated by a Republican or Democratic president instead of grappling with the legal issues the case raised. But that resistance has become increasingly hard to reconcile, too.

Chief Justice John Roberts seems somewhat aware of the damage this is doing to the court’s legitimacy, for which I give him some grudging respect. No one is better positioned to arrest the slide. But he’s fighting what seems to be a historic descent into partisanship, and I’m not confident he alone can stop it, even if he’s so inclined.

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