Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito enraged liberals twice on Monday, handing down two potentially wide-reaching opinions that weakened Obamacare's contraception mandate and severely undermined public unions.
Alito is a reliable member of the Court's conservative flank, though he often earns less attention than his irascible counterpart Antonin Scalia, whose opinions are regularly dotted with sensational rhetorical flourishes that easily seize media attention. Alito is less waffly than either Chief Justice John Roberts or the streaky, libertarian-at-times Anthony Kennedy, and he doesn't possess any cartoonish idiosyncrasies akin to the "disgraceful silence" of Clarence Thomas, who for eight years and counting hasn't asked a single question during an oral argument.
Alito, an Italian-American from New Jersey, can be easy to forget. But as Monday again showed, his significance on the Supreme Court is real, and worth remembering.
George W. Bush's nomination of Alito in 2005 to replace Sandra Day O'Connor (by then a swing vote) on the Supreme Court may end up being one of 43's most long-lasting and impactful decisions. Consider that in the last year alone, Alito has weighed in on issues as diverse as same-sex marriage, voting rights, unions, and, of course, Obamacare. And in many of those cases, his was the decisive vote — though the vote did not always work in his favor.