Obama thrown by false reports on health decision
Fox News and CNN at first erroneously said the court had struck down the centerpiece of the law, a mandate requiring Americans to buy health insurance.
Thu, Jun 28, 2012 at 06:13 PM
HEALTH CARE: Obama was not the only politician in Washington thrown by reports of the health care law's demise — several Republican lawmakers indulged in a premature display of celebration. (Photo: Luke Sharrett/AFP)
For a few puzzling moments Thursday, President Barack Obama believed inaccurate media reports that his proudest political achievement — health care reform — had been shot down.
Obama was standing in the outer Oval Office watching a split screen of four cable news channels when reports flashed by that the historic reform had been invalidated by the Supreme Court, senior officials said.
Two stations, CNN and Fox News, at first erroneously said the court had struck down the centerpiece of the law, a mandate requiring all Americans to buy health insurance.
But one senior official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a quizzical Obama was quickly joined by his chief law counsel Kathy Ruemmler, who gave him good news on the law by giving him two thumbs up.
Ruemmler was relying on a lawyer in the Supreme Court chamber for news of the judgment, and later analyzed the ruling herself, confirming the news the White House had been hoping to hear.
Obama then hugged Ruemmler and placed his first call to the U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who was widely panned over his oral arguments before the court but was eventually vindicated by its decision.
Such is the secrecy which surrounds the Supreme Court, other top officials had no advance warning on the fateful judgment and had to rely on television stations and the popular SCOTUS blog which decodes the legalese of Court decisions.
Obama was not the only politician in Washington thrown by reports of the health care law's demise — several Republican lawmakers indulged in a premature display of celebration.
"Individual mandate ruled unconstitutional. Let Freedom Ring," said Republican lawmaker Dennis Ross on Twitter.
Ross later changed his tack, saying he was "truly disappointed" in conservative chief justice John Roberts who voted with the four liberals to uphold the law.
Republican Tom Rooney also tweeted that the health care law was invalidated, saying it was "Great News for American people."
The tweets were later deleted but preserved by the Politwoops website which saves deleted tweets by politicians and is a project by the Sunlight Foundation, which fights for transparency in politics.
Copyright 2012 AFP American Edition