Outside Supreme Court, health-care ruling ignites cauldron of emotion

Thursday's Supreme Court ruling brought out a full range of views on President Obama's signature health-care reform – not unlike the mixed state of public opinion on the law.

Evan Vucci/AP
Demonstrators stand outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Thursday before the court's ruling on health-care reform.

Americans are deeply divided on President Obama's health-care plan – and so were the thousand-plus activists outside the Supreme Court who braved the 95-degree heat to be at the epicenter of Thursday's historic ruling.

Chants of "USA!" and Yes, we can!" mixed with jeers from a tightly packed crowd – some arriving hours ahead of the decision – when the Supreme Court announced its decision to uphold the 2010 health-care law.

The tide of opinion has been running against the Obama plan – the signature achievement of his first term. Only 28 percent of Americans said that they would be pleased if the Supreme Court ruled that the health-care law was constitutional, according to the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. Thirty-five percent of Americans said they would be disappointed by such a decision and another 37 percent had mixed feelings or were unsure.

That full range of views was represented outside the Supreme Court on Thursday.

“It was constitutional, and it was the right thing to do," says Lauren Weiner, deputy communications director for Americans United for Change.

For other supporters, the ruling was a mixed blessing. Molly Smith, who works with Planned Parenthood, says the health-care law did not go far enough but hoped the Supreme Court's decision could serve as a powerful stepping stone toward universal healthcare. "This is better than nothing, but I think we have a long way to go to make health care that’s affordable for all people,” Ms. Smith says.

But for health-care opponents, including several Republican leaders on hand, the court’s decision marked a call to action: Repeal the health-care law.

Rep. Phil Gingrey (R) of Georgia, co-chair of the Republican Doctors Caucus, said he was “bitterly disappointed by the action” and encouraged protesters to take all possible actions to ensure that Congress quashes the law. Mr. Gingrey even sent a direct message to Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the court’s four liberal justices in declaring the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

“I’m ready to call for the impeachment of Chief Justice Roberts based on this decision,” Gingrey said, eliciting a loud and long string of boos from health-care supporters.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, who chairs the House tea party caucus, said that upholding the law would further slow the recovery of an ailing economy. "The pragmatic effect of this decision is there will be a black cloud over an prospect of economic recovery in the United States,” she said.

Still others said that the event, with all its diverse opinions, represented core American values.

“This is what democracy is about – getting out here and being able to protest,” says Sam Williams, who traveled an hour and a half to register opposition to the law."

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