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Three Branches in Historic Clash Over Health Care

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Sens. Jeff Merkley and John Kerry hold a news conference on the Supreme Court arguments on health care reform.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), who attended today’s session, cheered Scalia’s attacks.

“Justice Scalia had it right,” she said, when he argued the whole bill should go.

“I don’t think it’s the court’s role to see which of these provisions would have passed on its own,” she said.

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who has also been sitting in on the proceedings, pointed to the arguments about whether the law’s expansion of Medicaid is constitutional, calling the Obama administration’s argument a “stunning example of federal overreach.”

Democrats, meanwhile, began warning that the court’s credibility is also at stake.

To overturn the law, “the court would have to stretch. It would have to abandon and completely overrule a lot of modern precedent, which would do grave damage to this court in credibility and power,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said. “The court commands no army, it has no money, it depends for its power on its credibility and its reputation. Ultimately, people obey it because it has that credibility, and the court risks grave damage if it strikes down a statute of this magnitude and importance.”

He said that, as someone who has argued cases before the court, at least three justices haven’t made up their mind: “I think all of the predictions are worth what you’re paying for them — they mean nothing at this point.”

And Verrilli, whose performance had been largely panned on Tuesday, closed Wednesday with an impassioned defense of the law. He pointed to the newfound liberty millions will have because of the care and security they will have under the law: “The same thing will be true for — for a husband whose wife is diagnosed with breast cancer and who won’t face the prospect of being forced into bankruptcy to try to get care for his wife and face the risk of having to raise his children alone. And I could multiply example after example after example.”

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