WASHINGTON – Rep. Doug Lamborn secured a rare seat in the Supreme Court for Tuesday’s oral argument about the constitutionality of the 2010 federal health care law. The Colorado Springs Republican listened as Justice Anthony Kennedy asked U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli whether or not the law’s individual mandate changes the relationship between the federal government and the citizen.
In an interview, Lamborn said Kennedy’s skeptical question thrust an indelible thought into his head: “This is the death knell of Obamacare.”
Although many Democrats disagree with Lamborn’s premise that the individual mandate is un-severable from the law’s other provisions, both House Democrats and Republicans anticipate the pillar of the Affordable Care Act will be struck down.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) did not seek to rebut the suggestion that the individual mandate is likely to be overturned. Instead, he said members of Congress should unite after the high court’s decision. “I hope Republicans and Democrats can come together to pass [health care reform],” he said in an interview.
But members of Colorado’s congressional delegation expressed no unanimity on the political consequences of the Supreme Court’s ruling.
Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Lone Tree) said if the health care law was overturned, conservatives may be less likely to flock to the polling stations this fall. “I think it would hurt Republicans if it were struck down. I don’t know. I think it would show (Republicans) that the system worked: the Supreme Court checked the powers of the president,” he said in an interview. Conversely, Coffman said if the high court upholds the entire law, “conservatives are going to be increasing their intensity (to defeat Obama),” he said.
Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Fort Collins) who won the swing district in 2010 in part by highlighting the former Rep. Betsey Markey’s support for the White House’s health care bill – and his opposition to it – struck a bipartisan note about the law’s political impact.
“If the Supreme Court strikes the law down,” Gardner said, “it will help the American people. I think the bill as it stands today is not only unconstitutional but also bad policy. And Americans don’t care if those who oppose the bill have an R or a D by their name.”
Rep. Lamborn was the lone representative who said President Obama would lose regardless of the high court’s ruling.
“It’s a lose-lose situation for him,” said Lamborn, “If the bill is struck down, Democrats have nothing to show for a year’s worth of work, when they could have been working to fix the economy.” Lamborn added if the bill were upheld, Republican voters would be more energized to go to the polls than if the law were struck down.
A conservative House Democrat who opposed the health care bill, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the matter freely, said he believes the political fallout from the Supreme Court decision is difficult to assess at this early stage.
He said the Obama administration and Republicans’ responses would be important: If the mandate were struck down, would the president propose an alternative? What legislation if any would the campaign of former governor Mitt Romney, the frontrunner for the GOP’s presidential nomination, support?
Whatever the responses, the political impacts of the health care law are expected to be large. Two Colorado House Democrats were turned out by voters in 2010 at least partly due to their support for ObamaCare, and the state is certain to be among the most critical battlegrounds in this fall’s presidential election.