What's it like to cover the Supreme Court's impending ruling on health care reform?
Here's what it's like: Sunday night, I was sitting at home in the Tampa, Fla., area watching James Lipton interview George Clooney on Bravo's "Inside the Actors Studio" when tropical storm Debby started messing with our power. After three power hits and the frustrating wait while the cable box rebooted, we called it a night.
Waiting on the health care ruling is like that: You don't know how long the court will be "on," you don't know what they'll release when, and you don't know if you'll even get the ruling that day.
The court's Monday session was a bust. The justices decided to put health care reform off to this Thursday, June 28, the last day of the session.
Like most of my colleagues around the globe, I cover the court's every move with two tools: a strong cup of coffee and SCOTUSblog, a live blog captained by Lyle Denniston, a press corps veteran who has been covering the Supreme Court for 54 years.
Lyle relays the court's every move, nuance and inference to a small team of legal scholar bloggers, some of whom have actually argued before the Supreme Court. Between the lengthy waits, the team answers questions in language that wouldn't confuse an eighth grader -- no small feat.
Lyle's succinct reportage aside, it's his mastery of the court's Da Vinci Code-like rules, procedures and hierarchical courtesies that makes SCOTUSblog really shine. He can't see what card the court is likely to play next exactly, but he has a way of sensing when a play is coming. And he's usually right.
The Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama's landmark redesign of America's health insurance system, has been under fire for more than two years as the legal challenges by 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business and a handful of individuals worked their way to the nation's highest court.
The challengers claim Congress overstepped its authority by requiring Americans to purchase health insurance for the first time in history. The states also don't cotton to being bullied into complying with the law or risk losing federal funding for their Medicaid program.
As Supreme Court decisions go, the stakes don't get much higher. This ruling could help determine whether some 30 million uninsured Americans will be able to afford health insurance, and whether America's costly health care system will continue to drive medical costs beyond the reach of many.
Oh yeah, it could have an impact on the fall elections as well.
Thursday, I'll be parked with my coffee in front of my screen, watching as Lyle and his team relay the information our way.
This time, we may finally see how this show ends.
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