Court decision may not disrupt implementation – High political stakes for SCOTUS ruling – ACA advocates on tenterhooks – Senate GOP won’t party if law is tossed

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IT’S HERE – Today is THE day. No more waiting, no more “what ifs?” to ponder. Two years, three months and five days after the first lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act were filed — the same day it became law — the Supreme Court will meet at 10 a.m. today to render its verdict on President Barack Obama’s signature legislative achievement.

–The justices still have two more cases to decide in addition to the ACA. Those will likely go first. And the ACA decision could come in multiple parts, so patience could be an especially important virtue this morning. But it should all be over by around 10:30 a.m. And then let the spinning begin.

Happy Thursday and welcome to PULSE. Today’s importance doesn’t really need further explanation, so grab the biggest coffee you can find and settle in for what’s going to be a wild day.

“There will be an answer, let it PULSE” (h/t Dan Berman)


–NO SCOTUS INTERRUPTUS FOR ACA? – Implementation of the health law might keep on chugging, even if the individual mandate is thrown out today. That’s because only the broadest options for striking down the law would actually upend the structures federal officials have been working to build, including health insurance exchanges, adding millions of people to Medicaid and making major changes to Medicare.

–CALM BEFORE THE STORM? NOT IN THE STATES – Anxiety levels are pumped up in the states, which will have to move quickly to implement the health law if most of it is upheld. The big preparation in the states, though, will take place after the court ruling.

RULING A BFD FOR ADVOCATES — Supporters whose lives have revolved around the ACA will soon find out whether the law has a future, and their emotions a day before the ruling ranged from “on pins and needles” to “confident.” NAIC consumer advocate Tim Jost, known for quickly churning out comprehensive summaries of massive HHS regulations, says he’s not losing sleep over the decision. “I never sleep,” he explained. John McDonough, who helped craft the ACA and the Massachusetts health reform, said he enjoyed his Wednesday with an afternoon hot yoga class.

–THE BEST SCOTUS PLAN? One health law supporter has prepared a fridge full of champagne, sangria and beer. “At 10:30 tomorrow, we’re going to be drinking no matter what happens,” the advocate said. Something tells PULSE they’re not alone. The POLITICO Pro story:

THE MINDS BEHIND THE CHALLENGE – There was a time during the drafting of health reform that a challenge to the individual mandate wasn’t even a thought. Now that the mandate and the entire health law faces judgment day, Pro’s Jennifer Haberkorn has a look at the legal minds that shaped the case against the mandate. It started with a September 2009 WSJ op-ed from David Rivkin and Lee Casey. And then there was Bill McCollum, the former Florida AG who hired the pair of lawyers. There’s Randy Barnett and Michael Carvin, who helped shape the legal strategy for the NFIB. And no list would be complete without Paul Clement, who represented the states in the Supreme Court and 11th Circuit. The POLITICO story:

THE PRO POSTGAME PLAN — POLITICO Pro will have the court covered from all angles today, including an hourlong SCOTUS live show at 2 p.m. It will be broadcast on NewsChannel 8 and online: Join the conversation on Twitter with #POLITICOLive.

SLEEPLESS IN THE WHITE HOUSE? Mitt Romney thinks so. “My guess is they’re not sleeping very well at the White House tonight. That’s the way it ought to be,” Romney said in remarks yesterday about the upcoming court decision. “[The ACA] was not just bad policy; it was a moral failure to put forward a piece of legislation that wouldn’t help Americans get back to work and to focus the energy of the White House on Obamacare.”

WINNERS AND LOSERS GUIDE — There’s a lot of people in Washington with a lot riding on how the court rules today. For Obama, a total win is his best-case scenario, even if that leaves in place the unpopular individual mandate. Same goes for Romney, who could then run against Obamacare for the next four months without getting specific about his own health care plans. But there’s a whole lot of other Washingtonians with skin in the game, from House Speaker John Boehner to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to Jeffrey Toobin. The POLITICO guide:

NO PLANS TO PARTY FOR SENATE GOP — Although health law opponents are marshaling supporters to trumpet a win in the Supreme Court on Thursday, Senate Republicans are scoffing at the notion that any of them would celebrate a favorable ruling. “I don’t think there’s going to be celebration,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told reporters Wednesday.  “What it really means is that this president pursued an agenda … that was unconstitutional, so it’s really a reflection of this president and his respect for the Constitution,” he said. “But that is depending on what the Supreme Court does.” Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa appeared to be put off by even the suggestion that Republicans would celebrate a court win. “Of course we won’t be,” he said. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said “people on this side” were aware that the health care issue is one of national policy and constitutional law — not one to be treated frivolously. And Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), enjoying his last year in office, bypassed the question altogether. “I don’t worry about anything,” he said with a laugh, when asked if he feared an overly celebratory reaction on the right. “I’m just a happy-go-lucky guy.” The senators’ comments portend a relatively staid response to one of the most closely watched and consequential court rulings in more than a decade. They also come a week after House Speaker John Boehner warned his caucus “there will be no spiking of the ball” if the court strikes some or all of the ACA.

FORMER BUSH AG: ROBERTS MIGHT PUNT – Remember how all the SCOTUS justices during oral arguments seemed to hate the idea of delaying a ruling on the mandate because of the Anti-Injunction Act? No matter to former AG and former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, who said Wednesday that Chief Justice John Roberts’s record suggests he would pull that lever. “I spent a great deal of time vetting Justice Roberts in making my recommendation to President [George W.] Bush that he appoint Chief Justice Roberts to the court,” Gonzales said on CNN. “One of the traits I most admired about him, and this is very consistent in his judicial decision-making, is to decide decisions on the most narrow grounds possible, to not get to constitutional issues you don’t have to in order to dispose of a dispute.” More from Gonzales:

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BISHOPS’ ‘FREEDOM’ SHOW WILL GO ON — The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is waging a high-profile campaign against the Obama administration’s contraceptive coverage rule. But if SCOTUS tosses out the whole health care law today, it would include the White House’s requirement that most employers include contraceptives, with no co-pay, in employee health plans. If that happens, all 23 cases challenging the HHS rule will be thrown out, but members of the religious liberty movement say their campaign will continue no matter what, and full repeal wouldn’t necessarily be reason to celebrate. “We’re not against the law, …just that one aspect of it,” said Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for USCCB. The POLITICO Pro story:

WAYS AND MEANS TO IRS: GET YOUR ACT TOGETHER — Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee are calling on the IRS to provide details on what the agency is spending — in time and money — to implement the ACA. The request comes days after the GAO released a report that said the agency wasn’t doing a good job of accounting for employee time or financial resources dedicated to the ACA. “Given the central role the IRS will play in collecting the law’s over one-half trillion dollars in new taxes and the responsibility the agency will have for much of the $1.8 trillion cost of the law, the service must account for the cost of administering the Democrats’ health care law,” the GOP members wrote. Their letter:

HOW TO READ THE DECISION – Longtime NYT Supreme Court reporter Linda Greenhouse has a tip on how she likes to read through SCOTUS decisions. First, she starts with the dissents. “That way, you can proceed to the majority opinion as a better-informed reader, with the full range of possibilities in view: What arguments did the majority reject? Which did it respond to, and which did it not even bother to acknowledge? Most important, what was the disagreement really about?” More from Greenhouse:

HAPPY SCOTUS BIRTHDAY – One of our editors has a daughter turning 8 today.  We thought about sending her nine cupcakes but weren’t sure if there should be four chocolate and five vanilla — or maybe six chocolate and three vanilla? Or what if one is marble? You get the idea. Happy Birthday, Jessa! We’ll get him home as fast as we can.

WHAT WE’RE READING, by Kyle Cheney

The legacies of President Barack Obama and Chief Justice John Roberts are linked through the Affordable Care Act. The Wall Street Journal’s Carol E. Lee and Jess Bravin have a look at their relationship:

President Obama has three speeches prepared, depending on the outcome of the ACA in the Supreme Court, the Journal reports:

SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe breaks down the questions the high court is expected to answer today:

The average age for Supreme Court justices to retire is 78.7, The New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg reports, and the number of justices approaching that magic number add to the stakes of the presidential election:

An Atlanta-based bioterror lab has seen a string of security breaches and is already under investigation by Congress. USA Today reports on a new string of emails bolstering concerns:

CNBC’s Philip van Doorn explores the market opportunities that would be created by various Supreme Court rulings on the ACA:

Josh Archambault of the right-leaning Pioneer Institute pens an op-ed in Forbes on Justice Anthony Kennedy’s pivotal swing vote on health care:

Whatever the Supreme Court decides, states will still face soaring Medicaid costs that eat up increasingly larger shares of their already shaky budgets. The Wall Street Journal has the story:

Also in the Journal, Purdue Pharma fights to retain its exclusive right to OxyContin, contending that a new version it’s poured $100 million into will help curb abuse:

A New England Journal of Medicine study finds that women who turn to in-vitro fertilization as they get older have similar likelihood of producing a live birth as women in their 20s. NPR reports on the study:

Also seen in Politico.