(Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)
A host of activists and political figures are gathering in front of the U.S. Supreme Court this week during oral arguments to decide the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
The court will listen to six hours of oral arguments over three days, the most since 1966, that seek to challenge or uphold several provisions in the Obama administration's 2010 health care reform law, which critics have dubbed "Obamacare." The largest gathering outside the court is expected Tuesday, when the court will hear arguments for the most controversial aspect of the law – the individual mandate to purchase health insurance.
Both supporters and critics of the law began arriving Sunday evening to attend the rallies. Two different religious groups held vigils Sunday night. One group prayed for repeal, the other prayed that the law would be upheld.
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum, who wants to repeal the law, spoke around noon Monday. Santorum has also criticized the current front-runner, Mitt Romney, for helping to pass a similar law in Massachusetts while he was governor.
Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, spoke at a news conference Monday morning in support of the law.
"This is a teaching moment because people will learn about millions upon millions of people who will receive benefits," Pollack said.
The Tea Party Movement has been opposed to the Affordable Care Act since it was passed. The familiar "Don't Tread on Me" flag that has been adopted by the Tea Party was seen again at Monday's rallies.
At one point, supporters began chanting "we love Obamacare," and opponents countered "we love the Constitution."
Sarah Kliff, a Washington Post reporter covering the rallies, noted a moment of solidarity between the two groups Monday morning. She tweeted, "Weird moment: health reform supporters and opponents are singing 'America the Beautiful' together."
On Monday, the court will hear arguments on whether they can rule on the law before it fully goes into effect. On Tuesday, the constitutionality of the individual mandate will be addressed. And on Wednesday, justices will pay attention to whether or not they can strike down part of the law without striking down the entire law. Their ruling is expected this June.