The fallout from the Supreme Court’s historic ruling Thursday upholding the health care reform law clarified a key distinction between the two parties. Republicans reaffirmed their commitment to turning back the clock and Democrats insisted on letting go of past battles and moving on.
“The Supreme Court has spoken. The matter is settled,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV). “With millions of Americans still struggling in this tough economy, we can’t look back. We need to look forward.”
“Now that all three branches of government have ratified the law, the time for quarreling is over. The time for disputing its validity is over,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “Congress should now return to its full time focus: the issue of jobs and the economy.”
“Politics be damned, this is about what we came to do,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
Republican sang a different tune, reaffirming their commitment to repealing ‘Obamacare’ and announcing they will hold yet another vote to do so.
“Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing today’s harmful law in its entirety,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). “There’s a lot of resolve amongst our colleagues, and amongst the American people, to stop a law that’s hurting our economy.”
Alongside Boehner stood his leadership team and multiple other members who echoed his message. Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) added that the ruling “did nothing to end the debate in America on health care.” The House will vote again to repeal the law July 11.
In its 5-4 decision to uphold the law, the Supreme Court decreed that its individual mandate passed constitutional muster under Congress’s power to levy taxes. Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the four liberal-leaning members and wrote the majority opinion. The four dissenters, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, voted to void the law in its entirety.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seized on the court’s reasoning, arguing that President Obama lied when he said the individual mandate wasn’t a tax. “The Supreme Court has spoken. This law is a tax,” McConnell said. “This bill was sold to the American people on a deception.”
Roberts’ opinion emphasized judicial restraint and deference to Congress on policy judgments. “Those decisions are entrusted to our Nation’s elected leaders, who can be thrown out of office if the people disagree with them,” he wrote. “It is not our job to protect the people from the consequences of their political choices.”
That returns the debate to Congress. President Obama and his GOP opponent Mitt Romney echoed the back-and-forth transpiring on Capitol Hill, with the president hailing a victory and Romney vowing to repeal the law if elected president.
The law is expected to cover some 30 million Americans and reduce the deficit over time. The blood, sweat and tears Republicans have poured into repeal means it’s too late to turn back now. Their conservative base has made clear it won’t tolerate anything less.
But the Supreme Court victory gave Democrats a renewed sense of optimism.
“When Social Security was passed, it was decried as socialism, just like health care [reform],” said Schumer. “Like health care, it withstood a constitutional challenge early on, and of course Social Security went on to endure as a cherished program in the country.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.