WASHINGTON (Reuters) - As the Supreme Court prepared to announce a decision on President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law, one of the legislation’s chief supporters predicted that it would be upheld by a 6-3 vote.
Nancy Pelosi, the House of Representatives’ Democratic leader, said she can see Chief Justice John Roberts siding with Obama in an anticipated divided Supreme Court ruling on Thursday.
“I believe 6-3,” Pelosi told the Reuters Washington Summit on Wednesday.
She reasoned that a decision upholding the law would require the support of Justice Anthony Kennedy, a moderate conservative who often controls the outcome of the court’s rulings since the justices frequently are split in their decisions.
“If you get Kennedy, I don’t think that Roberts would want it to look political” and oppose it, Pelosi said, alluding to the fact that Roberts has said he favors unanimity on his court.
As a Democratic senator from Illinois in 2005, Obama opposed Republican President George W. Bush’s nomination of Roberts to the Supreme Court.
In 2010, the same year the president got his healthcare law through Congress, Obama ripped into the Roberts court for a ruling that allowed corporations to spend unlimited money in elections.
This week the court again drew the wrath of the White House - as well as Pelosi and other Democrats in Congress - by reaffirming its 2010 decision by rejecting Montana’s century-old ban on businesses engaging in political spending.
Pelosi voiced confidence that the healthcare law she helped draft will meet any constitutional test. “It is ironclad. We didn’t do this off the back of our hand,” she said.
“We believe in judicial review in everything that we do. I wrote a bill that would withstand any question of its conditionality.”
The court’s four Democratic-appointed liberals, Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, are widely expected to vote to uphold the healthcare law.
Conservative Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito are considered likely votes against the law, based on their comments in oral arguments in March or their past rulings.
Roberts expressed skepticism about the law during oral arguments in the healthcare cases. But oral arguments have traditionally been a notoriously poor guide to the end result in Supreme Court cases.
(For other news from Reuters Washington Summit, click here)
Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Fred Barbash and Christopher Wilson