With the nine Supreme Court justices poised to announce the fate of President Obama’s health care law this week, Washington is bracing for the long-awaited ruling that is expected to rattle the political fault lines leading up to the November election.
While activists on both sides huddled over how to spin the decision in their favor, the Obama administration focused on highlighting the most popular parts of the Affordable Care Act and Republicans stuck to their message that no matter how much of the law the court upholds, they will still work to repeal the rest of it.
“What the Supreme Court is deciding is whether the law is constitutional, not whether it’s a good idea or not,” Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I think the debate about how to approach our health insurance problem in America will continue because the health care law, as currently structured, is discouraging job creation and expansion of business in America, and so that issue will continue to be faced if the law is upheld,” he said.
Months of legal battles over the massive 2010 health care overhaul likely will culminate this week, when the court decides whether or not the law is constitutional, potentially striking down the individual mandate to buy insurance, other pieces of the law along with it, or even the whole thing.
With the decision expected to be released Monday or Thursday, anticipation reached a fever pitch last week.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius busied herself with spotlighting ways the law has helped ordinary Americans. More than 3 million young adults have obtained coverage now that their parents’ insurers must cover them up to age 26, and 12.8 million Americans have received rebates from insurers that spent more of their premium dollars on overhead than allowed under the law.
Hill Democrats also were careful to focus on the merits of the law. They brushed off questions about what they would do if the law is struck down and insisted that the court would take their side.
“The only meetings that I have been party to have been those where we have heralded the benefits of the plan, that tens of millions of people have already benefited from it,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said last week when asked whether Democrats have a backup plan.
On Saturday, Republicans used their weekly radio address to criticize the law. Rep. Bill Cassidy, Louisiana Republican and a physician, blamed the law for driving up health care costs and squelching job creation. He promised that his party would take a gradual approach to reform health care regardless of whether the law is overturned.
“Unless the court throws out the entire law, we should repeal what is left and implement common-sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at the lowest cost,” Mr. Cassidy said.
Earlier last week, House Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio fired off an email to fellow Republicans warning them not to celebrate if the court overturns any parts of the law.
“No one knows what the court will decide, and none of us would presume to know,” Mr. Boehner wrote in a memo to his colleagues Thursday. “But if the court strikes down all or part of the president’s health care law, there will be no spiking of the ball.”
The anticipation is so strong that some Republicans have jumped the gun. Campaign staffers for U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock of Indiana, who defeated longtime Sen. Richard G. Lugar in a Republican primary last month, prematurely released four videos that Mr. Mourdock had prepared in response to four potential rulings.
His campaign removed the videos quickly — but not before news outlets posted them on the Internet. In one video to be circulated if the court strikes down the entire law, Mr. Mourdock warns voters that his Democratic opponent, Rep. Joe Donnelly, and Mr. Obama are already “putting Obamacare 2.0 together.”
“Well, we’ve had our brief moment of celebration, because the Supreme Court ruled that Obamacare is, in fact, unconstitutional. It’s what many of us argued all along,” Mr. Mourdock says. “But don’t sit back and think the fight is over, because it isn’t.”