Those for and against the law squared off with gusto for hours.
WASHINGTON - There was the argument inside and the argument outside, and they shared little in common at the Supreme Court on Monday.
Inside, nine justices sat in a quiet, camera-less courtroom to hear reasoned testimony and weigh their opinions about health care reform. Outside, hundreds of protesters paraded on the steps of the court, postured for cameras and shouted at one another through bullhorns. Reason gave way to political theater. Opinion was already in abundance.
"Save our sick babies!" chanted one group, as it held up pictures of bandaged infants in hospital beds.
"Save our Constitution!" chanted back another, waving copies of documents printed in Old English type.
The Supreme Court will spend two more days reviewing the 2010 health-care law, but everyone on the steps had already rendered a verdict. When it comes to a divisive president's most divisive piece of legislation, public opinion leaves little room for middle ground. Monday's rallies outside the court became a debate of liberals against conservatives; Tea Partyers against Occupiers; atheists against evangelicals; Rick Santorum against President Obama; women's rights advocates against abortion opponents.
They faced off for more than seven hours, each trying to leave a more memorable impression than the other. Both sides sang the national anthem. "Let's make ours louder," a leader of the second group said. Pastors supporting the law knelt on the steps to pray, followed by other pastors who oppose it, followed by more clergy members who prayed only for harmony between the two sides. One group of health care proponents chanted in catchy rhymes until they ran out of them. "If you have a new cheer, please come over here!" they sang.
A motorcade pulled up a few minutes after noon, and Santorum stepped out of a black sport-utility vehicle. His aides cordoned off a section of the steps and carried over a banner that read: "Repeal Obama Romneycare -- Better Health, More Freedom."
"This is a very important day," he said. "The bill has far-reaching consequences. This is the most important issue of the election, and if you really want Obamacare repealed, there's only one person who can make that happen."