Obama’s Solicitor General, Donald Verrilli, has rough start at health care oral arguments
Supreme Court justices battered Obama's solicitor general, Donald Verrilli Jr., with questions today, prodding him to explain why the government could compel Americans to buy health care insurance and not, for example, force them to purchase broccoli or burial insurance.
Verrilli appeared to stumble over his words at the beginning of his hourlong questioning, and took a drink of water less than a minute after beginning his statement before composing himself. After the oral arguments were over, some court watchers weren't exactly kind when assessing his performance.
CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said that the day's arguments were a "train wreck" for the Obama administration and that Verrilli seemed unprepared. "I don't know why he had a bad day," he said. "He is a good lawyer, he was a perfectly fine lawyer in the really sort of tangential argument yesterday. He was not ready for the answers for the conservative justices."
Time Magazine writer Kate Pickert wrote on Twitter that Verrilli "lost his footing a bit," relying on the liberal Justices to remind the other Justices of the key arguments for the law. Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein said Verrilli "lost big."
Lyle Denniston, a long-time court watcher for SCOTUSblog, told Yahoo News that Verrilli did well on the Commerce Clause argument on the whole, but "did not give a crisp reply" when Justice Samuel Alito asked him to express the limiting principle. Alito pressed him to describe how far Congress can go in forcing people to purchase a product in order to regulate interstate commerce. (Alito had earlier asked whether Congress could force Americans to buy burial insurance if the mandate is allowed, under the rationale that everyone dies and must eventually pay for a burial.) "Could you express your limiting principle as succinctly as you possibly can?" Alito asked. Verrilli's answer was a bit convoluted and grammatically confusing.
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