Top 5 Key Supreme Court Soundbites
March 27th, 2012
05:23 PM ET
11 years ago

Top 5 Key Supreme Court Soundbites

Washington (CNN) – The Supreme Court arguments Tuesday may be the most pivotal 120 minutes of judicial interaction in decades. (Nit-pickers: Bush v. Gore was 90 minutes.)

But not everyone has two hours to listen to the full audio. Thus, we've edited and compiled the top five exchanges that may give insight into how the justices see the case. Ordered by when they happened, not by importance.

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1. Opening Arguments

There is unmistakable contrast between the first seconds of U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli's opening statement and the beginning of opposing attorney Paul Clement's opening remarks. Each man had just a few seconds to speak before justices interrupted with questions. In his time, Verrilli paused, cleared his throat, repeated a sentence as if to reset himself and stopped for a drink of water. Clement, speaking approximately 56 minutes later, had a different tone.

Listen here to how both men opened their arguments, one after the other.

2. Broccoli

The power veggie has become the metaphor of choice for how far the government's power can reach. Throughout Tuesday's hearing, justices challenged Verrilli to explain whether, if the government can require individuals to buy health insurance, could it require citizens to do things like eat broccoli? Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a swing vote on the court, seemed especially focused on this argument.

Listen here to Justices Scalia, Kennedy and Roberts pursue the broccoli and commerce argument.

3. Kennedy: The Skeptic

As usual with this divided court, the spotlight initially fell on frequent deciding justice Anthony Kennedy. Tuesday the Reagan appointee pounded out skepticism, repeatedly asking whether the government has overstepped its authority. Kennedy maintained that the health care law requires people to purchase specific packages of health care that they may not otherwise have to buy in their lifetime.

Listen here to Justice Kennedy and Solicitor General Verrilli on federal government power.

4. Left-leaning Bloc Supports Verrilli

Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan and Sotomayor often seemed to guide Solicitor General Verrilli's arguments when he was speaking. Conversely, they asked the sharpest questions of attorney Paul Clement who represented Florida and the other states opposing the law.

Listen here to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointing out an aspect of Verrilli's argument to the solicitor general.

5. Roberts: A Swing Vote?

Throughout Tuesday's hearing, Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to bring up the government's strongest arguments more than any other conservative appointee to the court. When attorney Paul Clement presented the case opposing the health care law, Roberts challenged him to explain why government should not regulate the health care market. Clement responded with an example, saying that the United States could not require every American to buy bread in order to support the wheat market. But Roberts quickly rejected that argument, saying that the health care market is not limited, like the wheat market, but "includes everyone".

Listen here to Chief Justice Roberts and Paul Clement, attorney for Florida and other states, argue about the health care market.

– CNN's Dan Szematowicz contributed to this report.

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Filed under: 2012 • Health care • Supreme Court
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Should Obama mandate be upheld, we can expect some more:

    To promote the general welfare and ensure national security, I, Barak Hussein Obama, do hereby mandate that...
    .... every US citizen be required to purchase a GM Volt vehicle within the next two years. This will immediately lower oil demand and increase sales at our government owned car company, thus insuring the jobs of my union backers and masters. The IRS will be enforcing this requirement. Thank you for your cooperation.

    March 27, 2012 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  2. diridi

    well, Auto insurance is a mandatte, FICA is a mandate..Property tax is too...

    March 27, 2012 05:47 pm at 5:47 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    "The power veggie has become the metaphor of choice for how far the government's power can reach"

    And, like most things conservative, it simultaneously highlights the peurile nature of the ideology of unrealistic, childish daydreams that they sell to their facile base...while failing utterly to constitute a valid argument (let alone an accurate analogy).

    March 27, 2012 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  4. diridi

    It is going to be constitutional. I am very positive. There is nothing unconstitutional about this Health Care Law. Any thing, for the good of the public, government can mandate. o.k, Good of the Public is having lot of elaboration in law. It is called "Good Faith".

    March 27, 2012 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  5. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    The Constitution is a set of enumerated powers granted to the federal government by the people. All powers not so given, are RETAINED by the states or people. Given that context, can ANYBODY believe the Commerce Clause could EVER be interpretted as giving the federal government LIMITLESS POWER over peoples everyday choices in life? Totally ridiculous.

    Democrats/progressives/socialists/communists have been trying to undermine and pervert the Constitiution for decades. They have been trying to turn it into some agreement for communal living and sharing arrangement overseen by the federal government.

    March 27, 2012 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
  6. Sniffit

    Two words: universal necessity.

    Healthcare, medical treatment and medica facilities should be treated as a public utility.

    March 27, 2012 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  7. NVa Native

    Just more hate & fear from right wing hacks.

    March 27, 2012 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  8. Rudy NYC

    I find it utterly amazing that conservatives are arguing for the government to pay for something that people should be paying for themselves, health care, most especially in our current fiscal climate.

    March 27, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  9. Darw1n

    @Truth – Yours is identical to the argument that Roberts dismissed as ridiculous.

    March 27, 2012 06:34 pm at 6:34 pm |
  10. Guero

    The problem is we need to educate. Unlike tangible items, all Americans will need some type of healthcare during their lifetimes. I say to folks against the mandate, ok, but don't ask the governemnt for medical assistance when you need it. Corporate America is laughing at the ignorant folks.

    March 27, 2012 06:38 pm at 6:38 pm |
  11. Freedom 101

    I'm 42 and have been to the doctor twice in 15 years. I'm healthy & if I had been paying for health Insurance I'd not use, I'd have spent $72k (JUST FOR ME) that I couldn't have used to buy my home, open my business, or pay for my kids college. I choose not to buy a product that I won't use.

    March 27, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  12. Richard Broderick, Jr.

    Did we just pay for Dick Cheney's heart transplant with Medicare?

    But it would be ok to let an uninsured mother die without treatment just because she's not old enough?

    March 27, 2012 06:57 pm at 6:57 pm |
  13. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Truth – I will no longer be responsible for uninsured right wingnuts who show up at an emergency room to get treatment and the cost goes on to my premiums.

    March 27, 2012 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  14. Phillip

    The US Supreme Court now represents the polarization of the electorate. It has become biased period. So much for blind justice.

    March 27, 2012 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  15. Claudia, Phoenix, AZ

    $95 Billion dollars a year of your tax paying money pays for Medical Research. If the Justices rescind Obamacare then they need to rescind taxes paid by you to Medical Research because that means you as an American can't enjoy any benefits deriving from medical research as people around the World benefit from.

    March 27, 2012 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  16. steven harnack

    Perhaps there should be a mandate that people like Truth and Nothing yada yada have to have their tinfoil hats pulled down tightly at all times to avoid leakage of their damaged brain waves. Santorum said that he is against the mandate because he hasn't dated any men since he took the cure and he's afraid that even one man date would cause a relapse.

    March 27, 2012 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  17. geg

    so the goverment can,t force you to buy a product from private companys–so theres a tax on gas and you pay taxes for roads so they can not force you to get car insurance

    March 27, 2012 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  18. king

    Hey all these folks who are sure that calamity or even another great recession will never come their way, good luck! Do guys ever think that killing 1/6 of our economy wont bring a reaction to the markets, small businesses and to the overall economy. How many medical workers will lose their jobs when the judges kick 30 million people to the curve? How many small businesses that make medical stuff, will be left hanging. Thus is not a company for crying out loud, this is 1/6 of our entire economy. What industry can survive losing a quarter of their client. Well just like the people didn't want the government to bail out the auto industry, they don't want comprehensive healthcare, that is logical. The repubs and their big corporations have won, the poor, the disabled, sick, and the old have lost.

    March 27, 2012 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  19. S. B. Stein E.B. NJ

    The idea that everyone uses health care is not a surprise. How does everyone explain being born? Do I want to be paying for the people who can't afford insurance; not really. This is one way to start getting everyone a chance to get health insurance and a way to get covered.

    @ Truth - If you really believe that, then you are so deluded and paranoid. Not everyone has to buy a car, but everyone is need to be well because sick people don't work.

    March 27, 2012 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  20. sissy

    I believe it is wrong for insurance companies, drug companies, medical equipment, medical professionals & last but not the least guilty, politicians to make huge profits off of the sick & injured. The greed of the medical community is literally killing us.It took my husband & I 6 yrs. to pay for a half an hr. surgery, for example. Also, we couldn't afford a set of 3 injections that cost $600.00 each. As a result, I have been in constant pain for 2 yrs.As bad as my story is, many are dieing without the care they need.One of the problems with the health care bill, I've heard, is that non-health care items are being funded within it. After paying for my insurance, my husband's take home pay is 48% of gross.We don't have enough money for our co-pay for the Dr., lab or meds., so we are going without treatments. But, hey, we have insurance! It has increased 4 times since June '11.

    March 28, 2012 01:54 am at 1:54 am |
  21. Marry

    The US is so stuck in “capitalism” that it cannot define anymore how to run a modern country worth living in. Special interest bent on making money is represented well – the need of the majority is too often dismissed in favor of a very narrow view for money and profits. Too many are uneducated about what can be done – especially in the field of providing health-care to everyone but also in many other fields (environment, education, transportation, energy, military spending, …). Americans should be ashamed – talking big and not working for good solutions (some of them working already beautifully elsewhere!) while the country suffers!

    March 28, 2012 02:51 am at 2:51 am |
  22. max

    Great arguments

    March 28, 2012 06:48 am at 6:48 am |