Two leaders of the US Senate Judiciary Committee [official website] on Monday sent a letter [text, PDF; press release] to Chief Justice Roberts of the Supreme Court [official website] asking that the court consider televising a live broadcast of its decision regarding the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) [text; JURIST backgrounder]. The Supreme Court is expected to deliver its opinion in the case, United States Department of Health and Human Services v. Florida [SCOTUSblog backgrounder], in the coming weeks. Senators Patrick Leahy and Charles Grassley urged the court to consider broadcasting the decision, which they said would "bolster public confidence in the judicial system." The senators said the decision would be one of the most important decisions of the court:
We believe that the issues in the case are as important and consequential as any in recent Court history. In conducting its review, the Court directed parties to address the constitutionality of the act, the severability of the individual mandate, and the extent of the spending power of Congress. Given the fundamental constitutional questions raised and the effects the decision will have, the Court should be aware of the great interest Americans have in the outcome of this case.A coalition of news organizations made a similar request [JURIST report] last week, arguing that the broadcast would greatly benefit the public. The Supreme Court has never immediately released a recording of an announcement of an opinion.
The health care law has been a subject of great controversy since its passage in March 2010. In May, a group of women in Washington filed suit [JURIST report] against the state's Attorney General, Rob McKenna, saying that McKenna's participation in a lawsuit against the PPACA is preventing women from having full access to medical care. In March the US Supreme Court heard oral arguments [JURIST report] in the suit. In January 26 states submitted a brief [JURIST report] to the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the expansion of Medicaid for the poor and disabled in the PPACA. Also in January the federal government filed a brief [JURIST report] before the US Supreme Court arguing that the minimum coverage provision of the PPACA, which requires almost every US citizen to obtain health insurance by 2014 or face a tax penalty, is constitutional. The court granted certiorari to rule on health care reform law [JURIST report] in three separate cases last November, reserving five-and-half-hours for oral argument on the issue.