Pelosi, Grassley want cameras in Supreme Court during health care arguments

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health and the law

A pair of bipartisan lawmakers on Wednesday urged the Supreme Court to let television cameras broadcast their proceedings for the first time when they hear arguments next year about President Obama's landmark health care law.

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it will hear five-and-a-half hours of oral arguments on the health care overhaul's constitutionality in March, reviving the health reform debate just months before the 2012 elections.

Given the implications of the case, the court should consider providing live audio and video coverage of the proceedings, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa wrote in a letter to Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday.

"The constitutional questions presented in the case are momentous," Grassley wrote. "The public has a right to witness the legal arguments likely to be presented in the case."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday said she backed Grassley's request.

"When the Affordable Care Act is placed before the highest court in our country, all Americans will have a stake in the debate; therefore, all Americans should have access to it," Pelosi said in a statement. "Openness and transparency are essential to the success of our democracy, and in this historic debate, we must ensure the ability of our citizens to take part."

Brian Lamb, the CEO of C-SPAN, also sent a letter to Roberts on Tuesday with the same request, noting that the five-and-a-half hours of arguments scheduled for the case indicates its significance -- and makes the case for cameras more compelling.

"Interested citizens would be understandably challenged to adequately follow audio-only coverage of an event of this length," he wrote.

Grassley first introduced legislation that would allow cameras in the courtroom in 1999. Since then, the Supreme Court has been releasing audio after the fact of the oral arguments made in compelling cases. The first audio the Supreme Court ever released on an expedited schedule was for Bush v. Gore in 2000, the case that effectively resolved the presidential election.