Is the Individaul Mandate Constitutional?
WASHINGTON -- It's a frigid morning here outside the Supreme Court building on Capitol Hill, as a few hundred early rising, sign-toting demonstrators march in circles below the white marble steps. Conservative and liberal groups have both set up P.A. systems along the sidewalk and are trying to outshout one another, while foot soldiers wave signs in front of them.
"Protect our care, protect the law!" one man belts into his microphone.
At the same time--and with the same cadence as though they're in unison--a woman chants, "Stop Obamacare, we love freedom!"
Signs trot by demanding "Birth control for me" and "Keep your Ovaries off my Rosaries." One man is wearing a dress like the Statue of Liberty. The Black Eyed Peas play on the loudspeakers.
And this is just the calm before the storm.
Later on Tuesday, thousands of conservatives are scheduled to arrive in nearly 60 buses for what they're touting as a massive demonstration in a nearby park organized by the conservative Americans for Prosperity. Inside the court building, the justices will hear oral arguments over whether the government has the power to force most Americans to buy a commercial product, or pay a penalty--one of the most contentious provisions in the federal health care law.
To watch the historic case, scores of people waited outside through the night, where temperatures dipped into the 20s. Some slept on cots, while the less prepared huddled under blankets spread over the pavement.
Katherine Larsen, 27, and Hillary Klemmpt, 24, arrived at 5:30 the night before with hopes to get a seat. Larsen had never slept outside in her life, and showed up wearing four layers of clothing and nothing but a light blanket to sleep on. Both took a vacation day to spend the night on the street.
When the sun rose, guards from the Supreme Court walked down to admit the first 60 people in line to get the few seats available in the chamber. Klemmpt and Larsen were numbers 61 and 62.
There's still a chance they can slip in, but with each passing minute the odds decrease.
Back in front of the steps, where the demonstrators were chanting, a Tea Party group gathered in front of cameras with copies of the healthcare law in their hand.
"We will not comply!" a man with a microphone said. "We will not yield!"
With that, about a dozen people ripped the papers into shreds.
Liberal protesters booed them. "Don't litter!" someone shouted in the crowd.
"Don't worry," the man said, the ripped shreds of paper in his hands. "We're not Occupy Wall Street. We pick up after ourselves."
See Votes by State
News & Politics