WASHINGTON— The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling on Thursday to uphold President Obama’s health care law affected the presidential race almost immediately.
Leading Republicans denounced the majority’s decision, which called the penalty for failing to buy health insurance a constitutionally allowed tax, and pledged to use that rationale as a bludgeon to hammer the president in the campaign.
Democrats were relieved by the ruling, which passed because of the unexpected support of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who has generally sided with the court’s three other conservative justices, all of whom ruled against the constitutionality of the individual mandate, which will require beginning in 2014 that Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
The former Massachusetts governor, whose campaign said he spontaneously raised more than $200,000 in the hour after the law was upheld, will largely be able to stick to his standard stump speech in which he rails against the health care law. He is likely to more forcefully cast himself as the last best hope for opponents of the law, who are seeking a political repeal now that they were unable to gain a legal one.
“If the court upholds it, if they say, look, it passes the Constitution, it still is bad policy, and that’ll mean if I’m elected we are going to repeal it and replace it,” Romney said on Tuesday, offering a preview of his response.
If the law were struck down, Romney planned to argue that Obama wasted his time, and that of the American public, in passing the law.
But Romney also faces some challenges in capitalizing on the conservative fervor against the health care law. Romney passed – and since championed – a law in Massachusetts that included an individual mandate, just as the federal law did.
As Republicans now criticize the fact that the Supreme Court ruled that there is a tax included in the health care law – levied on those who don’t obtain health insurance – Romney may have to call the similar “fee” that he implemented in Massachusetts a “tax.”