Tick tock: Minute-by-minute replay of Supreme Court's historic health ruling

The Supreme Court’s stunning decision to uphold President Obama’s healthcare reform law triggered both celebrations and outrage from members of Congress and political activists.

While Obama and GOP officials offered strikingly different reactions to the ruling, they agreed that it raises the stakes for the November elections. 

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Thursday morning’s ruling sparked confusion amid conflicting reports on what the high court had decided. That uncertainty turned to elation for some, and despair for others, as it became clear the individual mandate — and with it, the majority of the healthcare law — had survived.

A minute-by-minute breakdown of the day’s events follows.

9:48 a.m.: Tensions run high during a House Appropriations markup as lawmakers obsessively check their iPads, paying little attention to a debate on greenhouse gas standards. Members shouting “let’s turn on the TV” are ignored.

9:55 a.m.: Thousands of people await the ruling outside the court, including belly dancers and a man dressed up as the Grim Reaper. Many in the crowd are carrying signs, such as “Keep your ovaries off my rosaries” and “We need universal healthcare.”

9:57 a.m.: Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), in shirtsleeves and a tie, is spotted on the sidewalk outside the Supreme Court.

9:58 a.m.: Justices take their seats in the courtroom.

10:07 a.m.: Chief Justice John Roberts starts to read the decision.

10:08 a.m.: Runners for the television networks sprint out across the Supreme Court steps with the healthcare opinion in hand.

10:09 a.m.: CNN issues an email news alert stating the court has struck down the individual mandate. 

10:09 a.m.: Some Republican lawmakers, including Reps. Virginia Foxx (N.C.) and Dennis Ross (Fla.), tout the court’s ruling via Twitter. They later delete their tweets. 

10:09 a.m.: Confusion reigns on the  news networks as it is reported that the individual mandate has been struck down. There are cheers outside the Supreme Court. CNN and Fox News retract initial headlines as SCOTUSblog reports that individual mandate has survived — as a tax.

10:14 a.m.: It becomes clear that Roberts has joined the liberal justices to uphold the healthcare law. 

10:15 a.m.: Patrick Gaspard, executive director of the Democratic National Committee, tweets, “it’s constitutional. Bitches.” He later tweets that he let his “excitement get the better of me.” 

10:15 a.m.: Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) interrupts his Law of the Sea Treaty hearing to announce the ruling.

10:20 a.m.: A smiling former Rep. David Wu (D-Ore.) is seen outside the court. He later greets his former colleagues on the House floor. 

10:21 a.m.: Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) is visibly shaken by the ruling: “I know it is a 200-page decision, I know it’s confusing. All I can tell you right now is, whatever’s left of it, I’m going to try to repeal in its entirety.”

10:22 a.m.: Spokesman Adam Jentleson comes racing down the marble stairs from the third floor of the Capitol to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office and flashes a triumphant salute to two reporters staking out the hallway outside the chamber.

10:22 a.m.: Juan Williams, a columnist for The Hill, says on Fox News that it is a “big day for the Obama administration.”

10:26 a.m.: Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus tweets, “Just elect Romney. We need #FullRepeal” 

10:30 a.m.: Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) takes video of the Supreme Court crowds with his cellphone. 

10:33 a.m.: Asked for a response to the ruling, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), clutching his phone, says, “I’m typing it right now” before heading into the men’s room.

10:33 a.m.: Said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas): “I think it will give President Obama a boost in the short term. … It will motivate a lot of independents and Republicans to go to the polls because we know now the only way to overturn [the ruling] is at the election box.”

10:33 a.m.: Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.): “This is not something that gives the president a green light. I think this was the worst-case situation for him.”

10:33 a.m.: Pressed on what the ruling means politically, Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) responds, “I’m not smart enough to tell you that.”

10:35 a.m.: Sprinklers go off on the lawn outside the Supreme Court as water starts falling on television equipment, sending network staffers scrambling to get their gear out of harm’s way.

10:38 a.m.: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.): “This decision is a victory for the American people.”

10:41 a.m.: CNN’s Wolf Blitzer notes that Obama had denied the mandate was a tax during the congressional debate on healthcare reform.

10:41 a.m.: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) tweets: “Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn’t a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.”

10:44 a.m.: On the Senate floor, Reid says, “I’m happy, I’m pleased, that the Supreme Court put the rule of law ahead of partisanship.”

10:46 a.m.: Pelosi and Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) hug each other in the Capitol.

10:54 a.m.: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.): “Well, the Supreme Court has spoken. This law is a tax. The bill was sold to the American people on a deception.”

10:59 a.m.: CNN reports “elation” at the White House.

11 a.m.: A suspicious package briefly closes the Capitol exits nearest to the court, forcing tourists and reporters to leave the Capitol Visitor Center through a tunnel that leads to the Library of Congress.

11:01 a.m.: The court recesses.

11:11 a.m.: House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announces that the House will vote to repeal the law on July 11.

11:15 a.m.: The Senate Judiciary Committee postpones a panel markup after Republicans fail to show up to provide a quorum. GOP lawmakers are busy giving television interviews responding to the landmark decision.

11:21 a.m.: Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) flashes a peace sign to cameras assembled for a Democratic presser. 

11:27 a.m.: Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) high-fives supporters outside the court.

11:35 a.m.: Jackson Lee, fed up with Tea Party speeches blaring from a nearby speaker, yells, “Insanity!” A critic of the healthcare law responds that the electoral power of Tea Party activists will “blow your minds” in November.

11:45 a.m.: Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) criticizes ruling from an “activist” court, says law can be repealed if House and Senate have GOP majorities and Mitt Romney is in the White House.

11: 45 a.m.: During a press conference with the U.S. Capitol as the back drop, Romney said, “ObamaCare was bad policy yesterday. It’s bad policy today. ObamaCare was bad law yesterday. It’s bad law today.”

11:48 a.m.: CNN apologizes for its initial reporting on the individual mandate.

12:03 p.m.: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) on the House floor: “The decision reveals ObamaCare is a huge tax increase on middle-class taxpayers, destroying jobs.”

12:15 p.m.: From the White House, Obama calls the decision a “victory for people all over this country.” He said he didn’t pursue healthcare reform because it was “good politics,” and added, “I did it because I believed it was good for the country.”

1:35 p.m.: At a press conference, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the ruling would “strengthen [the] resolve” of the GOP to repeal the law entirely.

2:02 p.m.: Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.) touts a cardboard “Obama-Roberts 2012” sign, displaying it to reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby just off the House floor.

2:08 p.m.: House approves the rule for the two resolutions related to contempt charges against Attorney General Eric Holder. Healthcare ruling is mentioned during the floor debate.

3 p.m.: Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Congress could still repeal the law: “Nothing done by one Congress can’t be undone by another." He added there is “no question” the ruling gives the president the upper hand in the November election.


Contributors to this article include Sam Baker, Sterling Beard, Bernie Becker, Russell Berman, Kevin Bogardus, Alexander Bolton, Alicia M. Cohn, Bob Cusack, Jonathan Easley, Ben Geman, Emily Goodin, Jeremy Herb, Molly K. Hooper, Cameron Joseph, Pete Kasperowicz, Rachel Leven, Mike Lillis, Vicki Needham, Julian Pecquet, Debbie Siegelbaum, Jennifer Smola, Niall Stanage, Daniel Strauss, Ian Swanson, Erik Wasson, Elise Viebeck and Jordy Yager.