Everyone’s lining up for the Supreme Court health care hearing

Nancy Marshall-Genzer Mar 23, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: It’s not unreasonable to call political Washington a circus, even on its calmest of days, but come Monday, when the Supreme Court’s hearings on the health care law start — look out.

Three days of oral argument, which means three days of the Court’s famous steps being crowded with activists, lawyers, journalists and tourists. Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer has more.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: In some cities, football is king, or people go batty over baseball. Here in Washington, the hottest ticket in town gets you into…a courtroom.

Ian Millhiser: There’s certainly a nerd factor here.

Ian Millhiser is an attorney at the Center for American Progress. He really wants that hot Supreme Court ticket. Some go to VIPs in advance, but ordinary mortals have to stand in line for a very long time. Millhiser plans to be at the court the night before the arguments start.

Millhiser: I am very much expecting a circus, yes. I doubt that there will be elephants there but there will be a lot of lawyers.

Lawyers in suits. Yep, Millhiser will be camping out in his Sunday best.

Millhiser: If you’re an attorney in the Supreme Court room, you wear a suit.

Theresa BrownGold isn’t wearing a suit. She’s standing outside the court in sensible shoes, black stretchy pants and a light sweater. Her accessories? A big sign and a portrait. BrownGold is an artist-turned-protester. She paints portraits of the uninsured. Her sign talks about “real access to health care.” She’ll be here at 6:30 Monday morning. She’s prepping for the day like a marathon runner.

Theresa BrownGold: I have to eat certain things the day before. And then I start my morning, like, with hot water so I can stand all day and not run to the bathroom.

Jennifer Stefano is making protest plans, too. She heads a chapter of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity. She’s helping organize a demonstration against the health care law. She has to get 12 busloads of Pennsylvanians to Washington next week.

Jennifer Stefano: It’s a hectic, mad scramble.

And the scrambling will continue once Stefano gets here. Stefano’s protesters will just stay for a day. She might stay overnight.  She’s noticed Washington hotels jack up their rates during big events. She’s contemplating a friend’s couch, but remembering an old Ben Franklin saying about houseguests.

Stefano: Houseguests and fish go bad after three days. And so you have to be careful. You can’t overstay your welcome.

But some people in Washington will welcome the messy mix of protesters, press and tired lawyers. John Valanos owns The Monocle restaurant, just three blocks from the Supreme Court. It’s a favorite haunt of legislators, lobbyists and lawyers.  

John Valanos: We see a lot of pinstripes if they’re arguing the case in front of the Supreme Court, and larger briefcases to be checked.

The pinstripes might be competing for tables with tourists. Valanos sees a lot of them in the spring, during Washington’s annual Cherry Blossom festival — which, by the way, starts on Sunday.

In Washington, I’m Nancy Marshall-Genzer for Marketplace.

Ryssdal: Our health care reporter Gregory Warner (@radiogrego) is going to be in the Supreme Court chamber next week for the arguments, which means he’ll be here and on the Morning Report every day explaining what happened and why it matters.

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