Live Blog: Supreme Court Hears ‘Obamacare’ Challenge on Individual Mandate

Mar 27, 2012 9:01am

The Individual Mandate: In the second day of health care arguments, justices consider the key constitutional issue, whether the government can compel Americans to buy health insurance or pay a fine or a tax. That provision kicks in in 2014. The government argues Congress had the authority to pass the law under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause and its taxing power. But opponents of the law – 26 states, four individuals and a small-business group – say Congress has no authority to force someone into the marketplace. They argue that if Congress has the power to pass the mandate, that would mean that the scope of its power is unlimited.

Get the latest from the process inside the courtroom and the circus outside at this live blog. All times are ET.

Supreme Court Audio

Searchable Transcript

And read all our health care law coverage.

1:08 -  Full Wrap – Can the Government Require You to Buy a Cell Phone Too? – Ariane de Vogue’s Full write-up of how things sounded inside the court (not good). Can the government require you to buy a cell phone, wondered Chief Justice John Roberts? How about burial services, wondered Alito.

And a good exhchange between Justice Antonin Scalia and Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, arguing for Obamacare:

When Verrilli said that Congress had the authority to pass the mandate under Congress’ power to tax and spend, Justice Antonin Scalia couldn’t resist. “The President said it wasn’t a tax, didn’t he?”

Verrilli said the president had said it wasn’t a tax “increase.”

Read it all here.

3:04 – Kennedy is Key – Matt Negrin talks to Republican challengers of the Obamacare law. They, like so many others, see Justice Anthony Kennedy as the key vote in the health reform bill. Kennedy today, in some questions, seemed skeptical that government could compel citizens to buy health insurance.  Read it.

2:12 – Images of Obamacare  -

CROWD 1024x680 Live Blog: Supreme Court Hears Obamacare Challenge on Individual Mandate

Image Credit: Matt Negrin

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Alex Wong / Getty Images

 

2:01 – Civility Breaks Down – Serena Marshall and Matt Larotonda report that an earlier civility is gone from the protests outside the court. One anti-protester man was led away by police. Another woman jumped in front of the tea party rally and wouldn’t leave. After a somewhat physical exchange, the officers led her away.  We have not heard of any arrests, simply removing the antagonist for the situation.

1:36 – Why Doesn’t Clarence Thomas Speak in Court? – He’s six years into an oral argument silent spell. Read this from Ariane last year.

1:00 p.m. – Who Got In? – 92 Supreme Court Bar members, 95 general public (plus 34 seats rotating every 3-5 minutes),  117 reporters (plus 13 reporters listening to audio)

12:13 – Justices Skeptical of Obamacare Mandate – First Word from Terry Moran -  There was deep skepticism among key justices about the presidents health care plan.  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Kennedy were very worried about where the government power would stop if the court allows this health care program to force Americans to buy health insurance.   If you’re a fan of Obamacare, this is a problem for you.

12:10 – Meet Marcellas Owens, Stood Next to Obama During Signing of Health Law – ABC’s Amy Bingham spoke to 13 year-old Marcellas Owens, the little boy who lost his mom to cancer in 2007 and stood next to Obama when he signed the health reform law in 2009.

Read the story here.

 

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Image Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

12:03 – Arguments Done? – People in suits are streaming down the SCOTUS steps. A good sign that arguments are done right on time. John Kerry and Max Baucus, Democratic senators from Montana and Massachusetts, walk out together.

11:58 - White House Staffers at SCOTUS – An administration official confirms that White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler is seated for the arguments with Deputy White House Chief of Staff Nancy-Ann DeParle, who managed health care reform for the President. Also with them: National Economic Council director Gene Sperling and Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. (ABC’s Ann Compton at the White House)

11:37 – Morning Color Roundup – Larger Crowds and an Eye Out for Sandra Fluke - A dispatch from Serena Marshall and Matt Larotondaoutside the court:

The sun had not even risen over the capital this morning when the protesters in front of the Supreme Court were letting their voices be heard. The crowd this morning seems to be predominantly comprised of pro-Obamacare demonstrators. Most conservatives are organizing off-site.

Compared to this same time yesterday morning, numbers have swelled by at least double. Overflow crowds are now lining the opposite side of the street from the court and the crowd is expected to grow as it warms. There are a few costumes in the procession today, including a Lady Liberty.

Dueling protest chants intertwine in  an almost harmonious beat. One group marching in a circle directly in front on the U.S. Capitol building is chanting, “Protect our care! Protect the law!” One of the more popular signs has the likeness of a birth control packet stating “BC4ME”.

The second group encircles the first and features chanting through a megaphone. They are trying to drown out the pro Obamacare supporters by repeating “stop obamacare we love freedom.” Favorite sign: “keep your ovaries off of my rosaries.”

The two camps of protesters mirror each other in some ways. Although organizers pledged they had gone out of their way to share the press conference time in the name of “civil discourse,” both of this morning’s news conferences were interrupted at times by hecklers. They even have separate podiums and audio mult-boxes, which has proved to be a logistical issue for news camera crews.

Conservatives took the mic stand first. Reverend Patrick Mahoney led their delegation, organized by groups “Live Action” and “Students for Life.” The preacher told supporters “abortion is not healthcare” and invoked Rosa Parks, saying his people would not “sit at the back of the bus.”

Lila Rose, head of Live Action, described herself as a businesswoman whose employees also supported right to life. She claimed her organization had led “investigations” into planned parenthood revealing “human rights abuses,” “child trafficking,” and covering up rape and incest.

The two then led a silent prayer for their side and students tore apart a symbolic printing of the legislation in front of the cameras.

The pro-ACA newser was led by Maine State Senator Margaret Craven.

Their news conference was dominated by women who spoke about how the Affordable Care Act had influenced them directly. One woman, Spike “Dolomite” Ward claimed she had originally been a critic of the legislation until she was diagnosed with cancer. After her husband lost his job the family had to decide between paying the mortgage and their healthcare coverage. Obamacare eventually provided the outlet for care she needed.

Coverage “should not depend on luck” she said.

Another speaker was a rape victim who documented how providers listed her past as a pre-existing condition, and refused to offer her coverage until she had been tested HIV negative for two years and off of therapy from the incident She was forced to go without coverage for 3 years.

One woman recounted a story of her father’s battle providers who denied a marrow transplant for his cancer for two months. He later died, and while she doesnt know if he could be saved that valuable time lost “haunts her” to this day.

The first group of ticket holders walked in at 8 this morning. And the line, many folks slept in, continues to grow by the minute. Indicating more folks are interested in hearing today’s hearings about the individual mandate.

There are reports that Georgetown law student Sandra fluke will be making an appearance but none of us have seen her.

11:30 – T Minus 30 Minutes – About half an hour ’til we figure out what they’re actually saying inside.

11:28 – Bachmann and an Anti-Bachmann – Two images from Matt Negrin: Former presidential candidate and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann speaking at a press conference this morning outside the court about the evils of Obamacare. Second is a pro-Obamacare demonstrator blaring her voice into a megaphone so no one could hear what Bachmann was saying. Matt’s full write-up.

 

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Image Credit: Matt Negrin

 

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Image Credit: Matt Negrin

10:18 – Health Care Demonstrators Make Cases Outside Supreme Court, Agree, Sort Of – As justices consider the health care law inside, dueling demonstrators debate the merits of health care overhaul on the steps in front of the Supreme Court. Matt Negrin reports on one heated discussion that swirled this morning between an opponent and a supporter of the law and how they found some common ground.

9:38 – How Americans Feel About Mandates (not good) – ABC’s pollster Gary Langer noted last week:

Two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. Supreme Court should throw out either the individual mandate  in the federal health care law or the law in its entirety,  signaling the depth of public disagreement with that  element of  the Affordable Care Act.

This ABC News-Washington Post poll finds that Americans oppose the law overall by 52-41 percent. And 67 percent believe  the high court should either ditch the  law or at least the portion that requires nearly all Americans to have coverage.

The law  has never earned majority support in ABC-Post polls, and this update, produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds a strong sense its critics are dominating the debate. Seventy percent of Americans report hearing mainly negative things about the law lately;  just 19 percent say the buzz has been positive. Even among its supporters, 53 percent are hearing more negatives than positives. Among opponents this soars to 88 percent.

9:30 – Protesters make for some of the coolest photos -

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                                                                       (Image Credit: Mark Wilson / Getty Images)

9:15 – Bigger Crowds for Mandate Argument – Serena Marshall writes that crowds seem bigger today on the key day of arguments. “Protesters look to outnumber media today,” she says.

9:14 – The Political Argument – No Big Deal? – In our morning political note, Michael Falcone and Amy Walter argue that however the justices decide – and the decision will likely come right before election day – it likely won’t have a large bearing on the 2012 race.

Walter-Falcone: “In fact, whichever way the U.S. Supreme Court decides, the issue of health care reform may not be such a big deal in campaign 2012 after all. The court tackles the individual mandate during oral arguments today, and the Republican candidates are using this week’s hearings to attack President Obama and each other. … But, the fact is, most Americans have already formed an opinion of the Obama health care law,  and a Supreme Court ruling isn’t going to change that.”

Read it all here.

9:13 – The View on the Outside – Ariane de Vogue, before she goes inside the court for arguments, sends in this photo of a man draped in the “Don’t Tread on Me” flag associated with the Tea Party next to someone carrying a sign that supports the health law.

opposing Live Blog: Supreme Court Hears Obamacare Challenge on Individual Mandate

                                (Image Credit: Ariane de Vogue)

9:12 – The View on the Inside - There are no photos or video inside the courtroom. There’s no tweeting much less computers for note-taking.  But here’s how things looked on day 1 inside the courtroom, according to the steady hand of artist William Hennessy at courtroomart.com

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                                                  (Image Credit: Wm. Hennessy Jr./CourtroomArt.com)

8:58 – Paul Clement - Today we hear from Paul Clement. He is the go-to guy for conservative causes at the Supreme Court, arguing for the state in health care overhaul. He’s also representing House Republicans on trying to force the Obama administration to enforce the Defense of Marriage Act.

From Ariane de Vogue’s profile: “Clement’s style in the Supreme Court is different from less seasoned practitioners who respond to questions from prepared notes, often giving canned answers. Clement argues note-free and engages in a conversation with the justices, carefully targeting their concerns.”

Read de Vogue’s piece here.

8:55 – Schedule - Two hours of arguments began at 10:00 a.m.

Arguing for the Government: Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.

Opposition, Paul Clement for the states, Michael Carvin for the National Federation of Independent Business

8:53 – Cold in Line – Ariane de Vogue reports Mother Nature is making compelling a case for televised arguments; there is freezing weather this morning and it rained all weekend on the folks in line to get into the health care law arguments.

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