The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s historic health care law Thursday – a defining moment in the 2012 race for the White House.
The stunning ruling – unexpected from a Court led by conservatives – was a huge victory for Obama, who staked much of his term on passing the national plan.
The major debate centered on the individual mandate, which requires the overwhelming majority of Americans to have health care insurance or face a financial penalty.
The required buy-in to the health care market would raise enough money to pay for the various other reforms included in the model.
The Supreme Court ruled that it was constitutional, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the 5-4 majority opinion.
Roberts, who was appointed by GOP President George W. Bush, cast the tiebreaking vote that allowed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to survive. He and the more traditionally liberal justices ruled that the controversial mandate could exist as a tax, which kept the bill intact.
“Today is a victory for people all over the country whose lives are more secure because of this law,” Obama said afterward in a measured speech that did not spike the football in celebration.
“It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics; I did it because it was good for the country,” the President continued, pivoting to call on Capitol Hill lawmakers to focus on the other pivotal election year issue – the struggling economy.
The Supreme Court’s decision, predictably, was immediately denounced by the Republican who wants Obama’s job.
“Obamacare was bad policy yesterday, it’s bad policy today,” said presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, trying to downplay the significance of the court’s ruling.
Disappointed conservatives immediately started pouring money into the GOP candidate’s campaign, which said it raised more than $100,000 in the first hour after the Court’s decision.
Romney, despite overseeing similar health care legislation while he was governor of Massachusetts, has pledged to repeal all of the bill on his first day in office, if he defeats Obama.
“Our mission is clear,” Romney said. “If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama.”
Most of his fellow Republicans joined in, voicing their anger over a decision that to them was shocking.
“Today’s decision makes one thing clear: Congress must act to repeal this misguided law,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).
But McConnell’s opposite number in the Senate had a succinct reply.
“Our Supreme Court has spoken – the matter is settled,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
And House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi placed a phone call to the widow of former Massachusetts Sen. Teddy Kennedy, who long championed health care reform by the federal government.
“Now, Teddy can rest,” Vicki Kennedy told Pelosi.
The decision – the most important Supreme Court ruling since it decided the contested result of the 2000 presidential election in Bush’s favor – has been awaited for months and became the center of the political world.
Press, protesters, policy wonks and passing tourists jammed the steps and sidewalks outside the high court, pouring over onto the opposite side of the street, in front of the Capitol, on a hot and humid weekday morning.
There was initial confusion when the ruling came down shortly after 10 a.m. – some networks, including CNN and Fox News, initially reported incorrectly that the law was struck down.
But once the outcome was revealed, a cheer went up from Democratic activists who started chanting “We won!” and “Obamacare for all!”
Just steps away, conservative and Tea Party protestors answered with “Repeal it now!”
Roberts, who quickly drew scorn from his former fans on the right, declared the mandate a tax and went so far as to write that it was not the Court’s “role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”
Ironically, Democrats – including President Obama in a 2009 interview – denied that the mandate was a tax, instead arguing that it was covered under the Constitution’s commerce clause.
“If we had called the mandate a tax, it would have killed the bill in Congress,” a senior Democratic official said a month ago. “We always knew that was the stronger argument. It was just politically unpalatable.”
The Supreme Court backed the entire health care law – complex legislation that will dramatically change an industry worth $2.7 trillion – though it struck down a minor part of the law that mandated how states received funding under an expanded version of Medicaid.
Their ruling, which sent hospital stocks on a sharp rise, will allow millions of people to retain their benefits. In New York State, more than 150,000 residents under the age of 26 who can now stay on their parents’ insurance.
Most of Obamacare’s other provisions start in 2014.
New York State officials also announced that they plan to continue implementing an insurance exchange, as per the law, that is meant to help extend coverage to some 2.9 million New Yorkers now without it.
“It’s time for us to move forward, to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law,” Obama said, noting that more health care challenges remain. “But today I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now or 10 years from now or 20 years from now,” he added, “we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law.”
Source: New York Daily News