WASHINGTON — State Rep. Sharon Anglin Treat, D-Hallowell, walked out of the U.S. Supreme Court Monday after listening to the first round of oral arguments over President Barack Obama’s health care law and shook her head in bemusement at the contrast.

Inside the august chamber, where Treat snared a third row seat after getting in line at 5:20 a.m., the justices quizzed all sides on fine legal points as the audience raptly looked on.

In front of the high court, competing groups of demonstrators chanted, sang, made speeches and waved placards with slogans like “people of faith for health care” and “repeal Obamacare,” as they vied for attention from photographers and TV cameras.

“In the courtroom, it is nothing like this … circus atmosphere,” Treat said. “People are sitting in their seats. They are very quiet and respectful. It is all about the law.”

Treat is a proponent of the health care law who believes it will help constituents in Maine and millions of other Americans gain access to health care insurance. Her trip to D.C. was financed partly out of her own pocket and partly by a nonprofit group that works with liberal state legislators called the Progressive States Network.

On Wednesday, Maine Attorney General William Schneider, a health care law opponent, plans to be on hand for another round of the oral arguments being spread over three days.

Treat is the ranking member of the Maine Legislature’s Insurance and Financial Services Committee, a sponsor of the state proposal to enact a state health-insurance purchase exchange required by the law and a founding member of Working Group of State Legislators for Health Reform.

Treat had an advantage over many others who got into line over the weekend in an effort to get into the court. She is also a member of the Supreme Court Bar, which put her in a shorter line than most members of the public.

Treat has never argued a case before the high court, but she has been present for several cases over the years, dating back to her time in the early 1980s as a law student at Georgetown University Law School. She became a member of the Supreme Court Bar in 1985, when she was involved in a case that she hoped would make it to the Supreme Court, though it never did.

The session Treat attended Monday probed the issue of whether it’s premature for the Supreme Court to rule on the case at all, since the mandate for most Americans to buy health insurance or face a fine doesn’t kick in until 2014. Treat said she agreed with an array of experts who concluded that the justices didn’t seem inclined to allow that issue to keep them from deciding the case now.

“This is huge,” Treat said of the health care case. “I have been to arguments before, but this is the most historic argument … maybe in my lifetime. This case will decide whether many, many millions of people have health care (coverage).”

Meanwhile, on Wednesday afternoon, Schneider plans to attend an oral argument that will revolve around whether Congress had the power to require states to expand Medicaid as part of the new law.

Schneider, who is also a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, won’t be one of the lawyers actually arguing the case before the justices. Rather, Schneider is there along with some other attorneys general to listen in on a case where Maine is one of 26 states that signed on to the lawsuit arguing that the law’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance coverage is unconstitutional.

Schneider is paying for his expenses partly out of his own pocket and partly by using a Maine Attorney General’s office settlement account, according to his office.

That account is not taxpayer-funded, but involves money won through litigation such as consumer anti-trust cases, Schneider’s office said. The money from the account is dedicated to litigation expenses.

MaineToday Media Washington Bureau Chief Jonathan Riskind can be contacted at 791-6280 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC


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