The GOP has shifted their hopes for turning back Obama's health care law from the Supreme Court’s ruling to the November election. And over the weekend, Republicans sought to turn the Supreme Court’s ruling to their advantage by pushing the idea that the individual mandate is a tax increase on the middle class. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell pressed the point: "The President said that it was not a tax. The Supreme Court, which has the final say, says it is a tax."
"What you've heard [Republicans] doing since the Supreme Court decision last week is redefining what the Affordable Care Act really is," Todd Zwillich, The Takeaway's Washington correspondent, says. "Chief Justice John Roberts did throw them a pretty big bone there. 'Tax' is a dirty word."
The Affordable Care Act's provision citing that the federal government will require Americans to buy health insurance (which will be subsidized by the government) was found to be constitutional by the Supreme Court by a 5-4 decision. Chief Justice Roberts provided the deciding vote, ruling the individual mandate to be constitutional on the grounds that is within Congress' constitutional authority to tax.
While the ruling was a victory for the Obama administration, it makes for a bit of irony that the Supreme Court defined the mandate as a tax when the President's main argument to pass the legislation was that the mandate is not a tax. Republicans, Zwillich says, have seized upon that as part of their argument for a repeal.
"As Republicans try to redefine the narrative for the election about why it's so important to elect Republicans to the Senate and Mitt Romney [to the White House], because [McConnell] knows and they know that electing Mitt Romney and winning the Senate is that last, only chance to undo the Affordable Care Act before it is enshrined as an entitlement for a generation," Zwillich says. "If they don't repeal it in this next election, they're not going to be able to do it, most likely, for many decades."
Meanwhile, Republican state governors are looking to stall any efforts to implement the affordable care act in their own states. "Every governor's got two critical decisions to make: one is do we set up these exchanges, and two, do we expand Medicaid. And no, in Louisiana we're not doing either one of those," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said on Meet the Press on Sunday.
"What the federal government has said is that if states choose not to set up these health care exchanges that will be in place in each state under the ACA, the federal government will do it for them [by] 2014, when the full breadth of the law goes into effect," Reid J. Epstein, a White House reporter for Politico, says. A few states, including New York and California, have prepared legislation for these exchanges, but the majority have not. "The Obama administration would like each state to [prepare for the exchanges], but we've seen a lot of governors and a lot of state legislatures say that they're not going to take part."
Zwillich believes that the Republicans' branding of the individual mandate as a tax will breathe fire into the upcoming elections for Senate seats. "Republicans can't [repeal the ACA] unless they win the election," he says. "It's their last chance to do it, [and] they'll fundraise like crazy."