By giving the health care law's advocates a 5-4 victory, siding with a liberal majority and writing the decision himself, Chief Justice John Roberts, analysts agree, is embracing the "umpire" role he said he'd take on during his confirmation hearings.
"Chief Justice Roberts' vote saved the [Affordable Care Act]," SCOTUS Blog summed up. "Wow. So Kennedy voted with conservatives, Roberts with liberals. Umpire, indeed," Washington Post's Ezra Klein tweeted.
So far, court watchers are settling around the idea that this signals a new sense of the Roberts Court as one led by a cautious Chief Justice, a guy ruled less by partisan ideology than his critics once thought. Meanwhile, his decision to justify the individual mandate as a tax, not a power granted Congress under its ability to regulate interstate commerce -- which his four compadres in the majority disagreed with -- makes it difficult to know how the ruling will affect Congress's future ability to regulate issues of national importance.
The decision is major, analysts say, not just because it's so politically volatile, but because it gives us our best insight into the philosophy of a Court that's likely to stick around for a long time. "Chief Justice Roberts is just 57, and he will probably lead the Supreme Court for an additional two decades or more," wrote The New York Times's Adam Liptak in March. "But clashes like the one over the health care law come around only a few times in a century, and he may well complete his service without encountering another case posing such fundamental questions about the structure of American government."