Supreme Court to rule on health-care reform ... then what?
A blow to Obama's health-care reform law could push Democrats to choose between defining the Supreme Court ruling as a principled disagreement between coequal branches of government – or as mainly partisan.
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If the law stands, Republicans will fume. If the law is curtailed or struck down, Democrats will seethe.
But what next? Republicans have vowed that, rain or shine, they’ll keep their focus on jobs and the economy – and incorporate whatever happens at the Supreme Court into that larger message.
Democrats, on the other hand, have not even countenanced the fact that the law might fail. At least in public, they're lining up with House minority leader Nancy Pelosi’s claim that the legislation is “ironclad” from constitutional challenge.
But if a majority of the high court proves them wrong, Democrats will have to choose between defining their loss as a principled disagreement or attacking the court for what they would see as an ideological – if not outright partisan – ruling.
“No one knows what the Court will decide, and none of us would presume to know. But if the Court strikes down all or part of the president’s health care law, there will be no spiking of the ball,” Mr. Boehner wrote. “Republicans are focused on the economy – and under President Obama’s policies, our economy is struggling."
If only a portion of the law survives, GOP lawmakers say they will work to repeal the remainder – an impossibility before 2013 given Democrats’ hold on the Senate – before returning with “common sense, step-by-step reforms” to fix the American health-care system.
In a practical sense, the GOP’s approach means marathon House votes on measure after measure.
As yet, those plans have remained under wraps, giving Democrats a potential window to attack the GOP over popular provisions such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26.
“Republicans are going to have to come out with a plan of their own,” says Ford O’Connell, a Republican strategist in Virginia. “Republicans is going to have to cobble something together, because [repealing popular provisions] gives the president the best path to go after them.”
For Democrats, the calculation is more complex. For months Democratic members of Congress have stressed the law’s constitutionality and rarely acknowledged that the party was making even broad contingency plans, if the court were to invalidate the law.
But should health-care reform fall in whole or in part, Democrats have two likely avenues to follow. One potential response amounts to recognizing that the court is a separate and equal branch of government – and then attempt to turn the situation around on their political opponents by arguing why the case makes their favorite legislation all the more imperative.
The first path is represented by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D) of Maryland’s response to the Supreme Court’s decision on Monday to knock down a Montana law restricting corporate donations to candidates seeking state office.