GOP digs in heels following Obamacare ruling

Republican leaders vowed not to let Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on health insurance subsidies be the last word on the Affordable Care Act.

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
Students cheer as they hold up signs stating that numbers of people in different states who would lose healthcare coverage, with the words 'lose healthcare' now over written with 'still covered' stickers, after the Supreme Court decided that the without the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may provide nationwide tax subsidies, Thursday, outside of the Supreme Court in Washington.

Obamacare's win in the Supreme Court Thursday hasn't deterred Republicans on the Hill from challenging the law, many of whom say they plan to make the nationwide health-care plan a major sticking point in next year’s big political contests.

King v. Burwell represented the second major judicial challenge of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and for the second time, the high court upheld President Obama’s trademark legislative achievement.

"Obamacare is fundamentally broken," said House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio. He vowed to continue repeal efforts but declined to say when the next vote might take place. "It's very difficult to deal with it when you have a president that fundamentally disagrees with us. And so the struggle will continue," he added.

While Republican leaders are railing agains the decision, the alternative would have placed them a difficult position, as the Monitor's Linda Feldmann reported.

While Mr. Obama and the Democrats are declaring victory, Republicans in a way are winners, too. Or at least they have dodged a political bullet. More than 6 million Americans stood to lose their subsidies, and public focus would have turned to the GOP-controlled Congress for an answer, had the Supreme Court ruled the other way.

While most Republican lawmakers agreed that they would continue their efforts to quash the law, the court’s decision has left them with little more than piecemeal solutions to try and scratch away at ACA, at least for the time being.

Big change – like full repeal – is generally expected to have to wait until the 2016 elections, where the GOP hopes for gains in Congress and a Republican president in the Oval Office.

"It's going to be one of the most important, if not the most important, debating points for 2016," said Rep. John Fleming (R) of Louisiana.

The court ruled that the federal subsidies which exist to help people pay for health insurance could continue. If the court decision skewed the other direction, Obamacare would have been gutted, leaving the millions that experts say would have been unable to afford health-care tempted to make their feelings known in the voting booth.

If the federal subsidies were lost, the 34 states most affected would include presidential swing state Florida, along with Pennsylvania, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, where Republican senators may face close re-election battles in 2016.

"There isn't some sort of, that sword of Damocles hanging over our heads that people are going to lose their care in 30 days or something," said Rep. Greg Walden (R) of Oregon.

As it stands, the decision in King v. Burwell leaves Republicans with more time to come with an viable alternative to the ACA, as well as plenty of rhetorical ammo to fire away away at Democrats in the lead-up to the 2016 elections.

"We've got to put something on the president's desk, not just a repeal but what are we going to do, what's our alternative," said Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R) of Kansas.

Politicians on both sides of the aisle also wasted little time using the court’s decision in political fundraising efforts. GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush emailed for donations to stop "the overreaches of the last six years," while Senate Democrats warned that Republicans have "pledged to destroy Obamacare."

The ACA is still a perennial political hot-button and there appears to be little signs of it cooling down. An April Associated Press-GfK Poll showed that 71 percent of Republicans oppose the law, compared to 33 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.

In his statements outside the White House after the court’s decision, Mr. Obama looked back on the five years of struggle since he introduced his national health-care overhaul.

"This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation, or Obamacare as a political football. This is health care in America," he said.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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