A slew of surprising decisions in recent years had at one point established Chief Justice John Roberts as the court’s swing vote. Roberts drew criticism from Republicans for being the deciding vote in 2012 to uphold Obamacare and siding with the court’s liberal wing to uphold President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy for “Dreamers.”
But ever since President Donald Trump nominated Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett to the high court in 2020, conservatives have enjoyed a 6-3 advantage. Among the conservative justices, Roberts is no longer needed to achieve the five votes required for a majority
Roberts has often sought to insulate the high court from politics and often taken an incremental approach in high-profile cases on hot-button issues – crafting narrow rulings that might win over justices of all ideologies. Perhaps because of that, he has been criticized on the left for his conservative approach to the law and on the right for being an unreliable ally.