WASHINGTON – Disappointed was the word that Colorado’s congressional Republicans used to describe the Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday to uphold the constitutionality of President Obama’s controversial health insurance law.
Disappointed with the logic of the ruling; disappointed with the decision’s outcome; disappointed with Chief Justice John J. Roberts Jr., who provided the crucial fifth vote to keep the March 2010 law in place – Colorado’s four House Republicans said they were disappointed by the high court’s decision. Yet they were also unbowed by the prospect of repealing the Americans for Affordable Care Act.
“I’m deeply disappointed that the individual mandate was re-branded as a tax and allowed to stand,” Rep. Mike Coffman of Lone Tree said in a statement, referring to Chief Justice Roberts’ ruling that Congress has the authority to tax Americans who choose not to buy health insurance.
“Today’s decision is very disappointing. The Supreme Court effectively granted Congress unprecedented power to tax people who don’t spend money and buy what Congress wants them to buy,” Rep. Gardner of Yuma said in a statement.
Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs also said he was let down, not just by the outcome but also by Chief Justice Roberts, whom a Republican president nominated and a Republican-controlled Senate approved in September 2005. “I’m extremely disappointed,” Lamborn said in an interview.
Rep. Scott Tipton of Cortez was the lone Colorado Republican who did not use the word “disappointed” to describe his reaction to the ruling. Instead, Tipton criticized President Obama for his statement to ABC News in September 2009 that the individual mandate was not a tax and said the law has had harmful economic effects already.
“The President sold this act to the American people as anything but what it is, a tax increase. The President’s health care law has increased costs for American families, and hurt job creation when we needed it most,” Tipton said in a statement.
Conservative grassroots groups expressed similar sentiments.
“This decision fundamentally alters the American way of life. President Obama’s federal government can now officially force any American to buy any product it pleases,” said Compass Colorado spokesman T.Q. Houlton, “This is a sad day for American freedom and democracy.”
On the eve of the high court’s ruling, the conventional wisdom on Capitol Hill and in the media was that the individual mandate would be overturned. Lamborn, who secured a rare seat in the Supreme Court to listen to the oral arguments in late March, predicted that the high court’s ruling would be “the death knell of Obamacare.” Rep. Gardner said in an interview Wednesday that the odds that the Supreme Court would strike down the mandate were “50-50.”
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Boulder) did not partake of the conventional wisdom. While Polis implied the high court might overturn the health-care law in March, he declined to offer a prediction about the ruling on Wednesday. “I don’t know. We don’t know what the ruling will be,” he said in an interview.
While Colorado’s congressional Republicans expressed disappointment, their Democratic counterparts expressed cautious satisfaction about the court’s decision in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius.
“(N)ow that the Court has ruled we should work together on a bipartisan basis to ensure that it functions effectively and extends quality health care to all,” Polis said in a statement.
Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) echoed similar sentiments in his prepared statement. “The Affordable Care Act has expanded health coverage for thousands of Coloradans and made preventive care more accessible and affordable for millions of Americans across the country. I am pleased to see that the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the bill’s constitutionality,” he said.
The delegation members’ relatively subdued statements mask the high stakes of both the health care law and the high court’s ruling.
In the 2010 congressional mid-term elections, Democrats lost 6 seats in the Senate and 63 in the House, including two in Colorado. Seth Masket, a political science professor at the University of Denver, co-authored a paper for American Politics Research recently that found the health-care bill cost Democrats around 25 seats. The House’s votes on health care, he wrote, “quite possibly g[ave] Republicans the majority.”
Gardner admitted Wednesday that his opposition to health care in 2010 helped him defeat Rep. Betsy Markey, who supported the final version of the bill.
If Republicans are unable to repeal the health-care law, it will take effect in 2014 and shape the country’s economy and budget for decades.
The Congressional Budget Office wrote in 2010 that the law would raise $770 billion in taxes from 2010 to 2019, and some three-fourths of the Obamacare mandate penalty will be borne by Americans who earn less $120,000 a year, making ObamaCare one of the largest tax hikes in American history on the middle class.”
The author of the House’s version of the bill exulted upon hearing of the high court’s ruling. “It’s a tremendous social advance,” Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) said in an interview, adding that the law was as momentous as Medicare and Social Security.
Colorado Republicans disagree and have vowed to overturn the law.
While House Republicans plan to vote again in mid-July to repeal it, Rep. Lamborn suggested that Republicans believe they can win the White House and regain control of the Senate in order to overturn the law.
“This focuses us on what need to do this fall. If (Mitt) Romney wins, he has vowed to overturn it. If Obama wins, he will keep it,” he said. “Obviously we can’t rely on the courts.”