The Washington Post

To hear health care oral arguments, a three day camp-out

On Friday afternoon, eight people had lined up to hear the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on health reform. The hearing does not begin until Monday. (Sarah Kiiff)

On Friday afternoon, McClure was the fifth of eight people waiting in line to hear the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the health overhaul. She expects to wait outside the Court for about 60 hours - about 10 times longer than oral arguments will even last. She had not planned to show up so early, but after scoping out the Court earlier that day - and seeing four people already in line - McClure didn’t think she had time to wait.

“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to start camping until tomorrow but since the line is forming, I’m here,” McClure says. Along with the black suitcase, she has brought a blue camping chair to sit in - and a poncho, to protect against the rain that’s expected this weekend.

The Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the health reform law are among the most-watched in decades, the longest that the justices have heard in 45 years. With just a handful of seats available to the public, lines began forming outside the Supreme Court at 9 a.m. Friday morning, exactly three days before the Justices would open the hearing.

The first person in line declined to be interviewed, only saying that he’d arrived Friday morning from Philadelphia and planned to stay the entire weekend. He’d been outside all day; his arms were already bright red with sunburns. The second person, a guy with a big tattoo on his arm that said “crazy bat” told me he didn’t have health insurance, but wouldn’t say anything beyond that. Waiters 3 and 4, both perched in blue camping chairs, told me they were holding spots for other people. “Too Late” by OneRepublic blasted from one of their cell phone’s.

Kathie McClure, a 57-year-old lawyer from Atlanta, is the fifth person in line to hear the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on the Affordable Care Act. (Sarah Kiliff)

McClure admits it’s “absurd” what she’s doing: Standing in line, for nearly three days, to watch the Supreme Court hear oral arguments on the health reform law. She was hoping the justices would allow cameras in the Court, but those requests were declined. “This is our judicial branch, our institution, and it’s essentially, for all practical purposes, closed off to the public,” she says. “I don’t think transcripts and audio tapes are the same thing as seeing the Court do its work.”

So, for the next three days, McClure will be waiting. She has an iPad and plans to tweet and blog the experience. She’s brought snack food - beef jerky and trail mix, among other things - but still hasn’t figured out her plan for going to the bathroom without losing her spot in line. She’s starting to make friends with the people sitting next to her.

“I’m sure we’ll work together through this,” says McClure. “I’m just hoping there’s a restroom nearby.”


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