It looks pretty clear that the Supreme Court's long-awaited decision on the constitutionality of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare reform initiative will be issued on Thursday. What the court will say is anybody's guess, there being a multitude of possible outcomes ranging from the entire act being upheld to the whole thing being struck down as unconstitutional and unworkable.
If any of the new law is struck down, it is most likely to be the individual mandate that every American purchase some form of health insurance or face fines and penalties for not doing so. Candidate Obama campaigned against the mandate in 2008. President Obama embraced it as part of his healthcare reform law—indeed the whole thing rests squarely atop it. Without the mandate, the new program moves from simply being a budget buster to a black hole of new spending that will far outstrip the U.S. economy's ability to pay for it.
Regardless of what happens, unless the act is upheld in its entirety the healthcare debate likely moves back to square one. The question before the house, however, is who will move first.
There are those who say the Democrats have given the issue their best shot and it is now the Republicans' turn to put something forward. Others argue that the whole bill was crafted by the White House and congressional Democrats when they constituted a majority in both the House and Senate—without input from the GOP—and it is therefore the Democrats' responsibility to come up with an alternative once the Supreme Court makes its opinion known.
The White House has not exactly been forthcoming about its plan should the court strike down the healthcare law. To the extent anyone has made comments it has been to suggest the administration will proceed with the implementation of the new law with all possible dispatch. The Republicans, to their credit, have been more forthcoming.
In a recent memo to House Republicans, Speaker John Boehner reasserted the GOP's intention to repeal Obamacare "in its entirety."
"Unless the Court throws out the entire law," Boehner said, Congress needs "to repeal what is left of ObamaCare and enact common-sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans' access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost."
Boehner's plan to move forward is based on a set of principles, conveyed in the memo:
- Republicans will not repeat the Democrats' mistakes. We won't rush to pass a massive bill the American people don't support.
- Health care coverage has become too expensive for too many people. The number-one health care concern of families and small business is the cost of health care, and Republicans' health care reforms will lower costs.
- Women make approximately 80 percent of the health care decisions made for their families. Republican health care reforms will ensure families and doctors make health care decisions—not Washington.
- We want families to be able to make their own choices in health care, visit the doctor of their choosing, and receive the health care they and their doctor feel is best. Those decisions shouldn't be made by Washington.
"The House will act in the coming weeks on legislation to repeal any part of ObamaCare that is left standing by the Supreme Court," Boehner told his colleagues. "Such action is critical for jobs and our economy and for the health care of millions of American families."
Whatever the court decides, it is clear that healthcare reform will be a central issue in the fall campaign, not just for president but for just about every seat in the House and a third of the U.S. Senate. In 2010 the American people voted to repeal Obamacare. In 2012 they are likely to do so again, meaning both sides are going to have to address the issue of repeal before the voters. There's just no way around it.
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