Hugs At One First Street

June 25th, 2015

From Mark Walsh’s excellent “View from the Court.”

After the Justices have disappeared behind their red velvet curtains, U.S Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., who argued the Obama administration’s case in King (and argued as an amicus for the position that won in the housing case), smiled broadly.

He first hugged his principal political deputy solicitor general, Ian H. Gershengorn. They exchanged backslaps as they embraced.

Verrilli then did the same with Edwin S. Kneedler, a career deputy solicitor general who, like Gershengorn, was on the government’s brief in King with the Solicitor General.

That’s not something one sees very often just steps from the Supreme Court bench.

Update: More from Tony Mauro:

So when the session ended, the lawyers from the solicitor general’s office jumped up and exchanged hugs and backslaps—not typical for staid lawyers clad in morning coats. Among those spotted were deputies Edwin Kneedler, Michael Dreeben, Ian Gershengorn and Malcolm Stewart.


Kudos to Solicitor General Verrilli for pulling out another two victories. As I note in the WSJ Law Blog, the Court rejected the SG’s arguments about the “term of art” and Chevron deference, but follow the general consensus view advanced by Eric Segall, Nick Bagley, and others about the meaning of “such exchange,” and the incongruities if a federal exchange has zero people.

Update: Here are Slyvia Burwell’s reactions:

“It was very emotional,” Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell said quietly, pausing for several seconds.

One day earlier, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the Obama administration could legally hand out healthcare subsidies to people in all 50 states — striking down the law’s biggest legal threat in three years. The decision also handed Burwell a victory in the biggest battle of her term so far.

As the justices were reading their opinions Thursday morning, Burwell said she was in her office reading the livestream on as she tried to work on a department memo on a separate screen.

“I got a little distracted,” she said.

When she saw the words “HEALTHCARE” flash across the screen, she said, “You knew that this was it.”

She got up and walked — briskly — down the hallway of the department’s Humphrey Building office, just blocks from the Capitol, toward the room where her team was gathered.

“As I was going down the hall, I heard a cheer,” she said.

But before she started relishing the good news, she made her team triple-check the decision. Just three years ago, when the court ruled in favor of ObamaCare, the decision had been initially reported as a decision striking down the healthcare law.

“I’m like, ‘Are we sure?’ ” she said with a laugh, joking about her “anal retentiveness.”

For the nearly nine months since the Supreme Court announced that it would take up the case,King v. Burwell has dominated conversations about ObamaCare across Capitol Hill.

About an hour after the administration won in court Thursday, Burwell was sitting in the Rose Garden to hear President Obama and Vice President Biden deliver their victory speech.

When asked Friday whether she had been concerned at all that the administration could lose the case, Burwell said she was most worried about the millions of families who may have lost their healthcare.

“It was my job and my responsibility, though, to make sure that we as a department were ready to communicate … and work with the states,” she said. “But it was just such a moment of — as I said — relief.”

In the White House, President Obama began celebrating almost instantly after learning of the decision from one of his aides.

And White House photographer Pete Souza has this post on Medium:

The President was in the middle of his daily briefing on Thursday when Brian Mosteller, the director of Oval Office operations, abruptly opened the door at 10:10AM.

Knowing a series of Supreme Court decisions were pending, I instinctively switched to my camera with a telephoto lens to zoom in on the President. Brian told the President that, in a 6–3 decision, the Court upheld a critical part of the Affordable Care Act, preserving affordable coverage for millions of Americans.

For one split second, the President’s face was blank as if he was trying to comprehend the news. He then reacted in jubilation.

The President wanted to seek out some other staff members. As he walked into the Outer Oval Office, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough was waiting for him. They exchanged hugs and fist-bumps.

The briefing soon resumed until the Vice President joined the meeting. He and the President exchanged congratulations.

White House counsel Neil Eggleston and Deputy Chief of Staff Kristie Canegallo interrupted the briefing to congratulate the President and to further explain the details of the decision.

As they were talking, I noticed that the clock in the Oval Office still read 10:10am. But it was actually almost 10:30am.

So, when the briefing finally ended, I asked Denis McDonough to come back into the Oval Office and showed him the clock stuck at 10:10am. I then showed him the back of my camera, where he could see the photo of the President first being told about the decision. The camera time read 10:10am.

What a coincidence on a historic day.