The Supreme Court says they won't issue their ruling on President Obama's signature healthcare bill until next week, but that hasn't stopped both parties from preparing for the fallout. Takeaway Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich says a ruling against the law presents challenges not just for Democrats, but for Republicans as well.
Across Capitol Hill, every nonprofit, lobbying group, and politician is scrambling to prepare for one of three outcomes of the Supreme Court's deliberations on the Affordable Care Act. It was even revealed that Richard Mourdock, a Republican Representative from Indiana, had readied himself for all three by pre-recording individual messages that respond to each outcome. Whether or not the nine justices find the legislation to be unconstitutional, lawmakers are already working on their strategies for what comes next.
The component most likely to be struck down by the Supreme Court is the individual mandate, which would require Americans to buy health insurance or face a fine. A big question that lawmakers have to answer is what to do if the individual mandate is struck down, but the majority of the Act remains. Besides the financial implications that would arise if people were not required to buy health insurance, there are political questions to answer as well. "There's a great deal of nervousness in the political classes and offices of Capitol Hill," Zwillich says.
The Republicans' initial stance was made clear by Speaker of the House John Boehner, who promised that the House will vote to repeal whatever the Supreme Court does not strike down. However, Zwillich says that the popularity of several components of the Act may make that politically risky. Among other things, pre-existing conditions would no longer disqualify customers for insurance, children would continue to be able to stay on their parents' health plan until age 26, and the "donut hole," a payment gap in the Medicare plan, would be closed. Striking the entire bill down would also cancel the $1.1 billion in rebates that are to be sent out to health insurance holders.
"There's a risk there, because those are the things that people like and [the Republicans] could be seen as taking them away," Zwillich says. However, Senator Jim DeMint, a Republican from South Carolina, echoes the Speaker's stance: "Regardless of what the Courts do, the Republicans need to insist that this bill be repealed."
On the other side of the aisle, Zwillich believes that the Democrats are going to press the Republicans for another viable solution. "All that [the Democrats] will discuss is that if the Court should strike down part or all of the law, they intend to come back at Republicans in public and say, 'We are the ones who have tried to give people better insurance, [and] we are the ones who came up with a plan that extends health insurance to 30 million people." Democrats, Zwillich says, will largely look to President Obama's reaction in the event of a loss dealt by the Supreme Court.
"[The strategic response] has to come from Barack Obama. It's his bill, it's his policy."