Within two hours of the U.S. Supreme Court releasing its opinion on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last month, former Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz spoke out about the decision.
Cruz, a Republican competing against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst in a July 31 primary runoff for an open U.S. Senate seat, called the decision “shameful” and described it as a “sad day for the court.” He accused the court’s justices of being motivated by politics rather than upholding the U.S. Constitution.
It was a harsh assessment considering that Chief Justice John Roberts, a man whom Cruz has described as a mentor and friend, played a pivotal role in the law being upheld.
Roberts has drawn scorn from conservatives for his decision to side with the court’s more liberal wing and uphold the controversial law’s individual mandate as a tax. Subsequent reports have suggested that Roberts may have been influenced by issues other than the constitutionality of the law in making his decision.
When asked last week about his thoughts on Roberts' role in the decision, Cruz said, “It was heartbreaking and it was shocking.”
Both Cruz and Roberts clerked for Chief Justice William Rehnquist early in their careers, Roberts from 1980 to 1981, Cruz in the mid-1990s.
After Election Day in 2000, Cruz was a lawyer working on the legal battle over the Florida recount for the Bush/Cheney presidential campaign. Cruz told the Miami Herald that Roberts' name was the first that came to mind when he was asked to help find lawyers to work on the litigation. Roberts reportedly helped with legal briefs and participated in a mock hearing to prepare Bush’s legal team.
“We needed the very best lawyers in the country, and I called John and asked him to help,” Cruz later wrote in the National Review. “Within hours, he was on a plane to Florida.”
When President George W. Bush nominated Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005, Cruz was an outspoken advocate for his confirmation, calling him “brilliant” and a “lawyer’s lawyer."
“As an individual, John Roberts is undoubtedly a principled conservative, as is the president who appointed him,” Cruz wrote. “He clerked for Chief Justice Rehnquist, worked in the Reagan White House, and served as the principal deputy solicitor general in President George H.W. Bush’s Justice Department.
“But, as a jurist, Judge Roberts’s approach will be that of his entire career: carefully, faithfully applying the Constitution and legal precedent.”
Since the ruling, Cruz has kept his criticisms mostly focused on the court as a whole.
Dewhurst, though, has not shied from singling out Roberts.
“When Supreme Court Justice John Roberts sold constitutional conservatives down the river and held up the worst parts of the disaster called Obamacare, we knew we were in for a problem," Dewhurst said at a press conference Friday at The Health Museum in Houston.
Both Dewhurst and Cruz are trying to convince Republican primary voters that they are best suited to lead the fight in Congress to repeal the federal health care law. The Supreme Court decision makes the issue an even more important one in their runoff, both said.
"In my first day in the United States Senate, I’m going to lead the effort to repeal Obamacare, every single word of it, and replace it with permissive free-market reforms," Dewhurst said Friday.
Cruz likewise vowed to work to overturn the law.
"I’ll throw my body in front of a train to stop anything short of its complete and total repeal," Cruz said at a recent event in Willis.