Bowing to public intrigue, the Supreme Court announced today it will release transcripts and audio recordings from this month’s challenge to the 2010 health care reform law on an expedited timetable.
The move was less than many lawmakers and media organizations sought in their desire to track the three days of oral arguments from March 26 to March 28, when justices will consider several constitutional challenges to the Obama administration’s landmark legislative accomplishment.
“Because of the extraordinary public interest in those cases, the Court will provide the audio recordings and transcripts of the oral arguments on an expedited basis through the Court’s website,” a statement from the Court said.
Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, who has long lobbied for the Court to allow cameras in its hearing room, called it “a step forward.”
But the Vermont Democrat nevertheless said the Court should do more to make its proceedings public.
“Decisions made at the Supreme Court impact the lives of millions of Americans,” he said in a statement. “Just as Vermonters can follow the actions of their elected representatives in Washington on C-SPAN and through webcasts on the Internet, so, too, should they be able to follow the public proceedings of the highest court in the land.”
Judiciary ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said the court needs to do more to increase transparency of its deliberations on the health care law. Grassley is a sponsor of a bill to allow cameras in the Supreme Court.
"Every American should have the opportunity to see and hear this landmark case as it plays out, not just the select few allowed in the courtroom," Grassley said in a statement. "The health care reform law has ramifications for the entire country. Video coverage would help with the public's understanding of not only the controversial new law, but also the American judicial system. It's disappointing that the chief justice isn't allowing video coverage of the case, but I appreciate his willingness to provide expedited release of the audio and transcripts to the American people."
C-SPAN, which began airing live footage from the House floor in 1979 and the Senate in 1986, also praised the decision but added in a statement: “At the same time, we are disappointed that the Court has rejected C-SPAN’s request for TV camera coverage of the oral arguments in this landmark case. We continue to believe allowing video coverage of Supreme Court oral arguments is in the public’s best interest.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.