POLITICS

Court decision sets course for campaign debate

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Photo - President Barack Obama (AP photo)
President Barack Obama (AP photo)

President Obama intends to use the Supreme Court's ruling on his health care law to rally Democrats this fall, arguing that the high court's validation proves his party is more committed than Republicans to protecting the health and welfare of all Americans.

"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, we'll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward," Obama said from the East Room of the White House.

The court's ruling, upholding most of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act on a 5-4 vote, finally set the course for the campaign debate that Republicans, in particular, have been eager to start. While the GOP now touts the health care reforms as a tax and an unwarranted expansion of government, Obama used the ruling to portray his signature legislative accomplishment as a political act of courage.

History of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
2009
Nov. 7 -- House passes its version of the bill 220-215.
Dec. 24 -- The Senate passes its version of the bill 60-39.
2010
March 21 -- The House and Senate approve the final version, send it to President Obama.
March 23 -- Obama signs the bill into law. Virginia and other states immediately sue.
2011
Aug.-Nov. -- Lower courts are divided over whether the law is constitutional.
Nov. 14 -- The Supreme Court agrees to hear a legal challenge brought by 26 states.
2012
March 26 -- The Supreme Court begins three days of oral arguments.
June 28 -- The court rules that the law constitutional.

"It should be pretty clear by now that I didn't do this because it was good politics," he said. "I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people."

Even while he insisted that focusing on the political winners and losers in Thursday's ruling "completely misses the point," the president tried to neutralize opposition to his reforms from his fall opponent, Republican Mitt Romney, who instituted similar health care reforms when he was governor of Massachusetts. Romney pledged again Thursday to repeal the Obama reforms.

"This idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for president," Obama quipped.

Public support for Obama's reforms, however, are at an all-time low. Polls show 56 percent of the public opposed to it.

Republicans are betting that the court's decision will energize their rank and file. Just three hours after the court ruled, Romney's campaign took in more than $1 million in contributions from Republicans eager to see the Obama reforms repealed, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said.

"The fight's not over," said Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. "It has just begun."

Republicans immediately seized on the court's ruling that the law amounted to a tax on Americans because it required them to buy insurance or face a fine.

"It is a tax increase," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Bloomberg TV. "The president said he would not raise taxes on the American middle class and now he is raising taxes on the American middle class."

In pledging to repeal Obama's reforms, Romney didn't offer a specific alternative. He cited only broad goals for his reforms, including ensuring that Americans happy with their current insurance would be allowed to keep it and providing coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.

"What the court did not do on its last day in session, I will do on my first day if elected president of the United States. And that is I will act to repeal Obamacare," Romney said. "If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

Videos of Obama's and Romney's responses:

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