The Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that President Obama's health care reform law is constitutional, delivering the White House a critical election year victory and declaring that health insurance will be mandatory throughout the United States.
Congressional reaction was immediate, with Republicans decrying the decision and Democrats praising it. The justices ruled 5-4 to uphold the signature domestic achievement of the Obama administration.
Senate Health Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, called the ruling "a rigorous, resounding confirmation of the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act." But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ken., called the decision "terrible."
"We pass plenty of terrible laws around here that the court finds constitutional," McConnell said in a floor speech. "Constitutionality was never an argument to keep this law in place, and it's certainly not one you'll hear from Republicans in Congress."
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, said "the United States Supreme Court has spoken. This matter is settled. "
"The Supreme Court put the rule of law ahead of partisanship, and ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional," Reid added.
Thursday's ruling was soaked in election-year politics, as reflected by the dozens of statements that congressmen from both parties sent out to the media.
"Because the Supreme Court did not strike down the most onerous provisions, it appears that the American people themselves will have to overturn the law by the choices they make in November's election," stated Senate GOP Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona.
Democrats pushed back just as forcefully.
"For the past three years, opponents of health reform did everything they could to distort and deceive," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "They tried to scare the American public with outright lies about 'death panels' and 'socialized medicine.'"
He added, "When that didn't work, they came up with a new strategy: Claim that the individual mandate that the Republican Party itself had invented was unconstitutional. Today the conservative Roberts court put an end to that debate."
Writing for the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts - an appointee of President George W. Bush - agreed with the law's opponents that the individual mandate was unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause but ruled the mandate could survive as a tax
"It is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without health insurance," Roberts said. "Such legislation is within Congress's power to tax."
The court's decision on Thursday did little to end the congressional battle over the law, with Republicans renewing their call to repeal it by legislative means. Leading the charge was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
"Congress should immediately begin the process of repealing Obamacare and replace it with common sense reforms that ensure all Americans can get the care they need at a price they can afford," McCain said in a statement.
But the day belonged to Democrats. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the third-ranking Democrat in Congress's upper house, called for an end to the longstanding debate over the law.
"Republicans should not carry on out of pique now that the law has been upheld," Schumer said. "Democrats remain willing to cooperate on potential improvements to the law, but now that all three branches of government have ratified this law, the time for quarreling over its validity is over."
by RTT Staff Writer
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