Republicans and Democrats are girding for a politically explosive week as the Supreme Court prepares to rule as early as Monday on the federal health care overhaul.
The ruling, as campaign advisers are well aware, has the potential to re-shape this year’s presidential race. For weeks, each party has been positioning itself to make the best of whatever outcome emerges from the tight-lipped justices.
And the implications go far beyond the 2012 election. The outcome of the health care case, involving one of the most divisive domestic policies in modern times, will affect millions of Americans. Calling for the law’s survival, supporters trumpet the expanded consumer protections and subsidies that make insurance more available and affordable. Calling for its defeat, critics blast what they describe as an unconstitutional requirement to buy health insurance, and warn the law will pummel businesses with its mandates and fines.
In the run-up to the historic ruling, each party is crafting a game-plan.
House Speaker John Boehner this past week cautioned the GOP ranks against “spiking” the ball if the mandate is struck down. He and other Republicans say the party will remain focused on repealing whatever parts of the law remain following the upcoming ruling. And, they say, they’ll pursue “step-by-step” reforms to replace the law no matter the court’s decision.
Lawmakers will be dealing with plenty of other matters this week — notably, a likely court decision on Arizona’s immigration law and a possible House vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt. On health care, they’re trying to game out all scenarios.
In a memo to colleagues, House GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, urged members to prepare for three possible rulings: a full repeal, a partial repeal involving the mandate or a law left intact.
He advised members to schedule time to read the entire decision, prepare statements for all three scenarios and consider scheduling tele-town halls with constituents.
“No matter how the Supreme Court rules, this is going to be a seismic decision,” said Michael Cannon, of the Cato Institute. “If they uphold the individual mandate, if they strike down the individual mandate — either way, they will be defining the relationship between the government and the citizens for decades to come.”