Live Audio of Landmark Court Rulings Urged

Live Audio of Landmark Court Rulings Urged
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The Supreme Court will rule on two landmark cases dealing with Obamacare and same-sex marriage in the next several days, and a group of lawmakers wants the public to have live access to the announcement of those decisions.

In a letter addressed to Chief Justice John Roberts, 16 senators and members of Congress wrote Tuesday that given the significance of the upcoming rulings, the public deserves to be able to follow the proceedings live.

The highly anticipated announcements “will impact the lives of millions of individuals and families across America,” the lawmakers wrote. “Accordingly, the Court should provide the American people the opportunity to hear in real time the arguments and opinions that will shape our society for years to come.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the seconding-ranking Democrat in the upper chamber, led the way in crafting the letter, which included signatures from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (the chairman of the Judiciary Committee) and Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Al Franken and Richard Blumenthal. Nine House Democrats also signed it.

The court is expected to rule later this week or early next week on two landmark cases: one concerning Obamacare, the other same-sex marriage. The former, King v. Burwell, deals with the question of whether the federal government can subsidize health care premiums for residents of states that use the federal insurance exchange. If the justices rule against the administration, millions of people could lose subsidies for their coverage costs, gutting President Obama’s key legislative initiative.

The other case, Obergefell v. Hodges, deals with whether the 14th Amendment requires states to legalize same-sex marriage. The court has just three days scheduled this month to issue decisions: Thursday, Friday and Monday. It’s expected to rule on these two cases, plus several others, one of those three days.

The lawmakers praised the court for releasing transcripts and, in some cases, same-day audio of oral arguments, and said doing so shows that the court is capable of live audio coverage.

“The enhanced transparency that would come from live audio broadcasts of public proceedings would allow people to better understand how our third branch of government operates and more closely track the many important cases that are decided,” they wrote.

There have been previous pushes for the Supreme Court to open its doors more to live media coverage. Grassley, the lone Republican to sign Tuesday’s letter, first sponsored legislation to introduce cameras into the court back in 1999. He released a similar bill, the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, earlier this year, which has seven Democratic and two Republican co-sponsors.  Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, introduced similar legislation in the House, though neither bill has moved forward.

The signers of the letter reiterated their support for live video coverage of the nation’s highest court, and pointed out that, thanks to C-SPAN, Americans can follow actions of the legislative and executive branches of government in real time, but the same can’t be said for this level of the judiciary.

“People may disagree on the outcome of any given case, but we can all agree that the American public is better served when all three branches of our government are transparent and accessible,” the lawmakers wrote.

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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