June 28 2012

Capitol Hill Responds to Health Law Ruling

Hadley Heath

In a series of press conferences today, Republicans and Democrats fought to find their best angles on the Supreme Court's decision to uphold ObamaCare.  The nuanced decision - that deems the mandate a tax - arms both parties with new ammunition in the fight over health care policy.  It basically boils down to this: Democrats are trying to paint this as a victory for the American people, who they argue will now enjoy better access to health insurance because of the President's 2010 health law.  Meanwhile, Republicans swear to keep fighting this government takeover of health care, now pointing out that President Obama (despite his claim to the contrary) signed off on the biggest tax increase in history.    

Democratic Congressional Committee Chairman Steve Israel reacted saying, “Now House Republicans need to drop their partisan obstruction and move on,” Israel writes in a statement. “Insurance companies are not back in control of a patient’s care. Insurance companies can’t again deny coverage to people with asthma, cancer or heart disease, or block women from getting cancer screenings. Republicans have wasted the last 18 months on a misguided, partisan crusade to put insurance companies back in charge of health care, instead of getting the economy back on track and strengthening the middle class.”

On the other hand, in a House Republican press conference, a group of Congressmen reacted by saying they respect the decision of the Court, but that ObamaCare is still bad policy. Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers, who led the Republican response to the ruling, said, "It is the largest tax in America’s history.  We also know that CBO has estimated that up to 20 million Americans will lose their employer health insurance.  It makes it harder for small businesses to hire.  And as a mom and a wife making health care decisions like many families in America, we’ve already seen our premiums skyrocket – on average – $2,100 per family". 

Rep. Jeb Hensarling said, "For those of you who believe it's constitutional, a constitutional law does not make a wise law."  Rep. Tom Price said, "As a physician, I can tell you that everything Americans care about in the health system, whether it's accessibility, affordability, high-quality care, or choices, this law hurts them all."  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor announced that he'd scheduled a vote to fully repeal the health law legislatively.  The vote will be Wednesday, July 11.

One reporter asked Speaker John Boehner if Republicans were being sore losers by continuing to hold votes on the President's health law.  The reporter said, "There are a lot of Republican laws on the books that Democrats don't like, but they aren't holding votes to repeal them all the time."

He responded saying, "Resolve.  There's a lot of resolve among my colleagues and among the American people."  He reminded those present that ObamaCare included much more than the individual mandate and the Medicaid expansion - the issued ruled on today.  He pointed to $500 billion in cuts to Medicare.  The Speaker should've also noted the timing: Of course Democrats aren't bringing up votes on many laws from years and years ago. Many of those issues are settled and done.  But the biggest parts of the health law are yet to be implemented, and the time is now for opponents of the law to continue fighting.  

Many have noted that calling the individual mandate a tax makes it less politically palatable.  That may be true.  But now Republicans have an uphill battle, fighting a huge tax increase that has already been passed into law, disguised as something else.  Democrats will also continue their spin machine pointing to Republican obstructionism, but they should note what Speaker Boehner said about the American people.  Resolve... And the Washington Times reports that pollsters expect the law to remain unpopular.

Of interest today was one particular Republican's response: Mitt Romney's. "What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare."  I hope this sets the stage for another national debate over health policy at the center of this year's elections.  If both parties are truly confident that their stance is best for the American people, they will both welcome a referendum on ObamaCare in November.

 

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