The three days of Supreme Court arguments that start Monday on the constitutionality of President Obama's health care law will be a legal marathon, and the lawyers involved have been training.
Last week, there were so many of the mock argument sessions, which lawyers call moot courts, that they threatened to exhaust something that had never been thought in short supply: Washington lawyers willing to pretend to be Supreme Court justices.
The problem, said Paul D. Clement, who represents the 26 states challenging the law, is not just the length of the arguments that the court will hear, but the variety of topics to be addressed.
The law itself is a sprawling revision of the health care system meant to provide coverage to tens of millions of previously uninsured Americans by imposing new requirements on states, employers, and insurance companies and, through what has been called the individual mandate, by requiring most Americans to obtain insurance or pay a penalty, says Boston Globe.
The decision in the case will have enormous consequences for how health care is delivered in the United States. It is likely to land in June, with large repercussions for Obama and his Republican challenger just before the two parties hold their nominating conventions.
The justices have broken the case into four discrete issues, scheduling a separate session for each, for a total of six hours, the most in more than 40 years. Clement, like his principal adversary, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr., will be arguing three times.
Walter Dellinger, who was acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, said he was worried about "the enormous endurance challenge this will be for Verrilli and Clement." Dellinger, who has argued more than 20 cases in the Supreme Court, said making even a single 30-minute presentation is draining.
"The day or two after a Supreme Court argument, I just basically collapse," he said, according to Denver Post.
The National Federation of Independent Businesses is the lead plaintiff on one of the cases being heard this week. It argues that the law as a whole will crush small businesses under regulatory burden and health-care costs.
The American Hospital Association is a $20-million-a-year lobby (the third-biggest lobbying organization in terms of spending since 1998, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics). The AHA has filed briefs in support of the law, and its amicus brief before the Supreme Court argues that "the court should uphold the individual mandate."
The health-care law provides new taxpayer subsidies to hospitals, and the individual mandate could reduce the "uncompensated care" hospitals now provide for the uninsured. Plus, more universal and subsidized health coverage could allow hospitals to raise prices, informs Washington Examiner.