Nine years ago, the California Supreme Court upheld a state law similar to the Affordable Care Act’s rules requiring most employers to include birth control coverage in their employee health plans. The sole dissent in that case was Justice Janice Rogers Brown. Nearly a decade later, Brown got her revenge. Though no longer a member of California’s highest court — President George W. Bush appointed her to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit over the strenuous objections of Democrats — Judge Brown is now the author of a 2-1 opinion holding that religious employers can ignore the federal birth control rules. What was once a fringe view held by a lone holdout is now the law in the second most powerful court in the country.
So there was never any doubt how Brown would vote on this particular challenge to women’s access to birth control. Her opinion was joined by Judge A. Raymond Randolph, a conservative George H.W. Bush appointee. Carter-appointed Judge Harry Edwards dissented.
There is a lesson here for Democrats trying to decide whether to invoke the nuclear opinion in the D.C. Circuit fight that Senate Republicans started this week. When Republicans had the courage to demand what they wanted and put a serious threat behind it, they got two of the most conservative judges in the country. If Senate Democrats follow suit — either by forcing Republicans to cave or by carrying through on a threat to nuke the filibuster — they will also win their fight to get President Obama’s nominees confirmed.