Supreme Court Floats a Compromise. Was it to Avert a Deadlock?

An unusual request by the Supreme Court for parties to a controversial case to respond to a compromise it crafted, along with a deadlocked decision (see Gavel Grab), quickly focused attention on the court’s ability to do its job with only eight members since Justice Antonin Scalia died.

By floating its own compromise regarding the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, The Washington Post said, the court indicated “that it is ready to undertake creative moves to avoid a series of 4-to-4 votes.” With its order in this case and its 4-4 ruling in a union case, “The reality of an ideologically divided, evenly split, one-man-down Supreme Court became apparent,” the Post said.

It did not immediately appear that the political landscape — with Senate Republican leaders opposed to considering President Obama’s court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, in an election year — was changing. Here is some of the coverage: Politico Magazine, “The Supreme Court: The Nightmare Scenario”; New York Times, “Democrats See Split Supreme Court Decision as a New Tool to Fill Vacancy”; Washington Post, “Deadlock at Supreme Court doesn’t change Grassley’s mind on Garland”; and CNN.com, “Kirk blasts GOP leaders for inaction on Supreme Court nominee.”