The only way to see what is going on inside the Supreme Court is to witness it for yourself.
For sophomores Chris Crawford and Stephan Schneider, that meant waiting outside the imposing building for more than 30 hours – from Monday to early Tuesday – to hear the oral arguments over the individual mandate clause in the controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
They weathered the elements, wrapping up in blankets when the nighttime temperatures dipped to 35 degrees, and leaving Capitol Hill with sunburns.
Early Tuesday morning, the dedicated duo received a “golden ticket,” Crawford said, and was shepherded inside to the court’s cafeteria to await the arguments.
After quickly changing out of the clothes they had slept in – donning suits instead – they passed in to the main hall.
“One of the coolest things about being inside there was looking around at all of the important people in the court room,” Crawford said.
At one point Schneider says he stood near Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and Crawford noted seeing Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“As the justices entered the room I thought, ‘Wow I am living history,’ ” Schneider said.
Recounting the highlights, Crawford says he was surprised at how poorly Solicitor General Donald Verrilli performed. He said Verrilli stumbled and stuttered through his opening statement, a foil to the smoothness of his opposition, former Solicitor General Paul Clement.
Crawford compares watching Clement argue to watching an elite athlete perform at the World Series or witnessing a great artist paint his biggest masterpiece.
“It was like watching a boxing match or something. Just two heavyweights going at it,” Crawford said.
He called the hour-long argument fast-paced, as the Justices quickly bombarded the lawyers with biting questions.
Justice Antonin Scalia questioned the requirement that consumers buy health insurance or be faced with a tax. He compared the mandate to the possibility of the government making a consumer buy broccoli, a point Crawford and Schneider said Verrilli struggled to deflect.
After an hour of sharing a room with senators, media, nine Supreme Court justices and their fellow ticket holders, the two left impressed and excited.
“That’s the reason why I went there. I knew I was going to be a part of history,” Schneider said.
This article appeared in the March 29, 2012 issue of the Hatchet.