The Supreme Court has become a more partisan institution in recent decades, more closely resembling the other branches of government than it once did. This week will start to show just how partisan the court has become. On Wednesday, it will hear arguments in the latest challenge to the health care law, a case that has received less attention than the 2012 challenge did but also is of great consequence. Of the 10 million people who have health insurance thanks to the law, the court could effectively take it from about five million of them.
In a 2000 ruling, for instance, three Republican-appointed members of the court — Justices Kennedy, Scalia and Thomas — all ruled against a literal reading of the word “drug” in a case involving the Food and Drug Administration, notes Nicholas Bagley of the University of Michigan. Yet lower-court judges over the past year have tended to rule on the four-word phrase almost exactly as you would predict if you knew only the president who appointed them. If the Supreme Court does the same — a big if — it will be a remarkable moment. A Republican-appointed majority of justices would do what Republican politicians have been trying, without success, to do for the last five years: Repeal much of Obamacare. And the court would be doing so only three years after upholding most of the same law.