(WASHINGTON) — President Obama was just outside the Oval Office Thursday morning when he got the news — erroneous, as it turned out — that the U.S. Supreme Court had struck down the individual mandate in his signature health care law, deeming it unconstitutional.
Standing with White House chief of staff Jack Lew and looking at a television in the “Outer Oval” featuring a split screen of four different networks, the president saw graphics on the screens of the first two cable news networks to break the news — CNN and Fox News Channel — announcing, incorrectly, that the law had been struck down.
Senior administration officials say the president was calm.
A couple minutes later, White House counsel Kathy Ruemmler came to Outer Oval and gave him two thumbs-up. Ruemmler had gotten the correct information from a White House lawyer at the Supreme Court and from SCOTUSblog.com.
“The Affordable Care Act has been upheld by the court,” Ruemmler told the president, a senior administration official recalled. “There were five votes finding it valid under Congress’s taxing power.”
There was some “cognitive dissonance” given what was on the cable news screens, an official said.
The president hugged Ruemmler, officials recalled. He then called Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli to congratulate him.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jennifer Rizzo, CNN
Stephen Collinson, CNN