WASHINGTON — Maine Attorney General William Schneider and U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree have very different views on President Obama’s health care law, but they agree on one thing: it’s tough to predict how the Supreme Court will rule on the landmark legislation.

Pingree, a Democrat who represents Maine’s 1st Congressional District, attended Wednesday’s morning oral arguments. Schneider, a Republican U.S. Senate candidate, attended the afternoon session.

Pingree, a proponent of the Affordable Care Act, said it was valuable for her to gain the perspective of the high court scrutinizing lawmakers’ work.

“In Congress, we think only about the actual making of the law, forgetting that they will be interpreted and that there are decisions that will be made down the road about how we structure laws and how we do our work,” Pingree said. “I thought it was very educational, really, to hear how the justices look at their job and how they compare this law to other laws.”

Asked if she thinks the justices will uphold all or part of the health care law, Pingree said she is “not an expert on Supreme Court interpretation. I can’t actually tell what they are going to do.”

Members of Congress have walked across the street to the Supreme Court this week to hear arguments over the health care law. Pingree and Schneider passed each other Wednesday as Pingree was leaving the building and Schneider was arriving.

Schneider isn’t one of the lawyers arguing the case, but Maine is one of 26 states that signed on to the lawsuit against the health care reform law, arguing that its mandate for individuals to buy health insurance is unconstitutional.

Schneider attended for arguments focused on the requirement that states expand the Medicaid health care program for the poor. He believes that mandate also is unconstitutional.

Schneider said he was encouraged by the questions asked about the Medicaid expansion by some of the justices. “It left me feeling that they really are taking this question seriously, that there is certainly a chance that the court will find the Medicaid expansion unconstitutional,” he said.

But he agreed with Pingree that it’s difficult to interpret how the justices feel based on what they ask during the oral arguments. “A lot of times they will ask probing questions to try to define the issue.”

Pingree was present while the justices heard arguments over whether the entire law has to be thrown out if any part of it – such as the insurance mandate – is ruled unconstitutional.

Pingree said she believes the law should be allowed to stand intact, noting there are consumer protections in it such as access to health insurance for people with a pre-existing condition and a ban on insurance companies canceling insurance if someone gets sick.

“I hope the fundamentals of the law aren’t interfered with, frankly,” Pingree said. “I voted in favor of the piece of legislation and I think it’s better if we have all the pieces there.”

Pingree is married to financier S. Donald Sussman, a contributor to Democratic and charitable causes and the majority share owner of MaineToday Media, which owns the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and other media outlets in Maine.

 

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

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Twitter: Twitter.com/MaineTodayDC