WASHINGTON — “Ho, ho, hey, hey, Obamacare has got to stay,” a small cluster of young people chanted outside the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday.
Then a woman grabbed a bullhorn and started chanting, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Obamacare has got to go.”
It was the second of three days of oral arguments in the high court over the 2-year-old health care law, but not all of the debate was among the nine justices and the various attorneys on the case.
Across Capitol Hill, people on both sides of the issue re-created the high-volume demonstrations that marked Congress' passage of the law in 2010. There were signs — “Health Care for All,” “Obamacare Makes Me Sick” — and chants and spirited arguments in front of the court.
After the court's two hours of arguments, U.S. senators from both parties held news conferences, while hundreds of opponents of the law gathered at a rally across the street from the Capitol to hear from Republican lawmakers.
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt scored a front row seat for the two hours of arguments on what is widely considered the most important issue — whether Congress has the constitutional power to require individuals to purchase health care
The so-called individual mandate is the crux of the law and is at the heart of much of the opposition to it.
Pruitt, who has filed a challenge to the federal law separately from the ones being heard by the Supreme Court this week, paid his own way to Washington and attended the session with some other Republican attorneys general, he said.
He said later that it was difficult to predict how the court would rule; a decision is expected this
Still, Pruitt said, based on the exchanges among the conservative judges and remarks from Justice Anthony Kennedy, who could be the swing vote, “I think that those who are in favor of seeing this law declared unconstitutional should be heartened that perhaps that's where the court is headed.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who helped write the law and attended the arguments on Tuesday, said he thought it would be upheld. If it is not, he said, millions of Americans will lose the benefits they already are enjoying, including young people on their parents' insurance policies and elderly people saving on prescription drugs.
U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., drew cheers at the rally when he announced that the U.S. House this week would vote to repeal the health care law as part of the Republican budget blueprint for the next decade.
But U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters that Republicans had actually conceived of the idea of requiring people to buy health insurance.
“Republicans were fathers of the individual mandate,” Schumer said. “Now suddenly, they want to give it up for adoption on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.”
On the steps of the Supreme Court, armed police officers stood watch over the demonstrators, some of whom tried their best to drown out the opinions of their opponents.
Some health care law opponents carried yellow flags that read, “Don't Tread on Me,” while many supporters carried signs that read, “Protect Health Care, Protect the Law.”
Said Pruitt, “This is truly a landmark case that the court is about ready to