Supreme Court’s Health Care Ruling Dominates Debate, Shapes Election
Susan Clark of Venice, Calif., argues with another demonstrator outside the Supreme Court last week. Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images.
Reports that Chief Justice John Roberts switched his vote to uphold President Obama’s health care law aside, what remains clear is that last week’s Supreme Court decision will reverberate on the campaign trail, shaping the outcomes of elections on Nov. 6 and beyond.
Just how the presidential campaign and congressional races will be impacted will depend on public feelings about the court’s ruling and whether it changes how voters perceive the law. An online Reuters/Ipsos survey taken in the aftermath of the court’s decision found that support for the overhaul had jumped to 48 percent from 43 percent.
In a new Gallup poll, Americans are split, 46 percent to 46 percent, on whether upholding the health care law was a good idea.
More polls will be needed before a trend can be determined. Meantime, both parties were all over the Sunday talk shows seeking to frame the debate in their terms.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew appeared on ABC News’ “This Week,” where he refused to call the individual mandate in the health care law a tax, despite the fact the court’s majority, led by Roberts, used that reasoning to leave it in place.
“The Supreme Court looked at what the structure of the law was and they saw that 1 percent of the people would be paying this charge if they chose not to avail themselves of health insurance,” Lew said. “For that 1 percent who have chosen not to buy health insurance, and just to pass the burden on to others, there’s this penalty.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., had a sharply different take on the decision.
“The president said it was not a tax, and the Supreme Court, which has the final say, said it is a tax,” he told Fox News. “The tax is going to be levied, 77 percent of it will be levied on Americans making less than $120,000 a year. So it’s a middle-class tax increase.”
Sen. McConnell said the Republicans would push to repeal law through a process known as reconciliation, which requires a simple majority vote.
“Taxes are clearly what we call reconcilable. That’s the kind of measure that can be pursued with 51 votes in the Senate, and if I’m the leader of the majority next year I commit to the American people that the repeal of Obamacare will be job one,” McConnell said.
You can click here to check out Kwame Holman’s piece from February 2010 that explains how reconciliation works.
Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Democrats would push back on repeal efforts by reminding Republicans — and voters — of the popular provisions included in the overhaul.
“They’ll bring it up, and when they bring it up they will ask for repeal, repeal of all the things I said that help children, help young adults, help seniors, help men or women who may have prostate cancer, breast cancer, whatever it is, any precondition. And everybody will have lower rates, better quality care and better access. So that’s what they want to repeal. We’re happy to have that debate,” Rep. Pelosi said.
Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley offered a slightly more political take in a segment on Friday’s NewsHour, telling Ray Suarez: “What we have to do a better job of as a party is explaining the benefits and the rationale here. I mean, not only do we need to stop wasting money on a broken health care system, but we need to improve wellness and bring down costs, so that we can grow our economy, so that we can create jobs, and so that we can expand opportunity.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, meanwhile, is going on offense with robocalls about health care in 10 House districts. The calls say the Republican in question “wants to put insurance companies back in charge of our health care” and that the lawmaker “is looking out for himself and the big insurance corporations that fund his campaign, not the middle class.”
But health care has impacted more than just the fall campaign.
The weekend’s must-read story about the intrigue over Roberts’ vote was written by Jan Crawford of CBS News, who cites two sources with specific knowledge of the deliberations.
Crawford reports that it was Justice Anthony Kennedy who waged a “relentless” campaign to sway Roberts back toward the conservatives’ opinion. From her story:
But this time, Roberts held firm. And so the conservatives handed him their own message which, as one justice put it, essentially translated into, “You’re on your own.”
The conservatives refused to join any aspect of his opinion, including sections with which they agreed, such as his analysis imposing limits on Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause, the sources said.
The close of a landmark term for the nation’s highest court also invited sharp weekend analysis from the New York Times and others.
Adam Liptak writes in the Times than an examination “reveals that the court, which has had a reputation for predictable ideological splits, has entered a new phase.”
This term, it sometimes worked with striking unanimity and assertiveness to review the actions of the other branches of government. Partly for this reason, its relationship to the Obama administration has often been a distinctly adversarial one.
When the court was divided, as it was in the immigration and health care cases, its voting often did not track the usual patterns. There is good evidence that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. has worked hard to insulate his institution from the charge that it has political motivations, an accusation that it is especially vulnerable to because the court’s five more conservative members were appointed by Republican presidents and its four more liberal ones by Democrats.
Don’t miss the nifty chart that goes along with the story.
Robert Barnes reported in the Washington Post that Thursday’s ruling was “only the second time in [Roberts'] seven years on the court that he provided the winning vote for the left to prevail over the conservative justices.”
The NewsHour will evaluate the Supreme Court, and its role in presidential politics, Monday night. Tune in.
Watch Ray’s health care segment with Gov. O’Malley and Mitt Romney’s health care advisor Tevi Troy here or below.
Troy said O’Malley was using “code words.”
“I found it interesting how Gov. O’Malley talked about code words like federal spending. Well, federal spending is not a code word. If the Affordable Care Act spends $2 trillion, well, that is not a code word. That is $2 trillion that the American people are going to have to pay for.”
Friday night on the NewsHour Mark Shields and Michael Gerson, filling in for David Brooks, mixed it up over health care and Attorney General Eric Holder.
Mark said the president’s speech after the health care decision was announced was the best commentary on the law since it has passed. He dubbed the Affordable Care Act “an orphaned piece of legislation” that has new life and is helping boost the Democrats.
Of course, the law’s opponents are newly excited to defeat the president this fall, Mark noted.
“[T[he energy will be with those who are against it, whether they're Tea Party or the more conservative Republicans," he said.
Michael called it a "status quo decision" but commended Roberts.
"It was like juggling on a tightrope and he did it very successfully, really marked the emergence of Roberts as the key figure on the court. He both avoided a major political crisis, gave conservatives things they wanted by restricting the Commerce Clause as it applies in these cases, and established himself as the central thinker on the court," he said. "That's quite an achievement."
Watch the segment here or below.
2012 LINE ITEMS
Gwen’s Take outlined the day that was as the mercury rose, the justices spoke and Congress held Holder in contempt.
The New York Times reported over the weekend, “People close to the Romney campaign say it could close its June fund-raising books having collected an additional $100 million, possibly more.”
Politico’s Jonathan Martin writes that the veepstakes is the “political equivalent of the Oscars.”
Check out this nifty chart showing the presidential horse race from Talking Points Memo’s PollTracker.
The New York Times evaluates how the economy is pulling young voters away from the president.
“Barack Obama is a man who refused to give up. No matter how politically unpopular it was, he knew it was the right thing to do,” Vice President Joe Biden wrote in a fundraising email to supporters. He said he shared an “emotional” moment with the president when he learned the law would stand.
George Clooney is hosting another fundraiser for the president, this one on Aug. 27 in Geneva, Switzerland, for Americans living abroad.
White House adviser David Plouffe wrote a letter to the House and Senate Democrats on the issue of taxes and the GOP’s push to call the president a tax increaser over his health care reform law. His message? Engage. “We welcome this debate on middle class taxes, and we urge you to seize this opportunity to go on offense to illustrate how the President and Democrats in Congress are standing up for the middle class,” Plouffe wrote.
- The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker writes about the Romney family’s summer vacation, which includes the “Romney Olympics”.
Ann Romney on dressage: “brought me health joy and happiness… if it’s misunderstood, I can’t do anything about that.” usatoday.com/news/politics/…
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) July 2, 2012
Obama could easily explain the individual mandate by using this video of Mitt Romney giving a powerpoint on it in 2006. youtu.be/TTByvLtYIYA
— Andrew Kaczynski (@BuzzFeedAndrew) July 1, 2012
Fred Karger has ended his presidential campaign. Most ink he got all year #HotlineSort
— Reid Wilson (@HotlineReid) July 2, 2012
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) July 1, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
The Democratic Governors Association raised $13 million in the second quarter, “shattering its previous fundraising record and bringing its total for the first 6 months of 2012 to $21 million, more than the $20 million the DGA raised over the entire year in 2011,” a source tells the Morning Line.
The Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold writes about how Congress broke the gridlock last week before breaking for the July 4th holiday recess.
“On July 4, the tea party will dust off the tri-corn hats and head into the streets to fight the second revolutionary war against ‘Obamacare,’” Evan McMorris-Santoro reports over at Talking Points Memo. Tea Party groups plan smaller, local rallies on the holiday instead of coming to Washington.
Sasha Issenberg used his Victory Lab column for Slate to do a deep dive into how Mexican pollsters do their job ahead of the presidential election.
The White House pulled the nomination of Timothy M. Broas to be ambassador to the Netherlands after he was accused of drunken driving, the Center for Public Integrity’s iWatch News first reported.
Some photos from the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
Roll Call’s Abby Livingston has a primer on the Texas Senate primary, a runoff between Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz.
- The Washington Post followed Chief Justice Roberts the day after the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the health care law.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
President Obama is at Camp David with no public events scheduled.
- Mitt Romney attends a fundraiser in Jackson Hole, Wyo., at 8 p.m.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.