Par­ties likely to spin Oba­macare rul­ing

Court’s decision ex­pected by June

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY PAIGE WIN­FIELD CUN­NING­HAM

With the oral ar­gu­ments over Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care law out of the way, Democrats and Repub­li­cans are brac­ing for the po­lit­i­cal fall­out ex­pected this June when the Supreme Court hands down its rul­ing.

What­ever the court de­cides, it’s sure to roil the po­lit­i­cal wa­ters just months be­fore the Novem­ber elec­tions, leav­ing the White House and Democrats scram­bling to frame any out­come as a win for them and prompt­ing wide spec­u­la­tion over how much an over­turn of parts or all of the law would dam­age Mr. Obama’s re-elec­tion prospects.

“I can tell you that there is no con­tin­gency plan that’s in place,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wed­nes­day, re­spond­ing to a ques­tion of what the ad­min­is­tra­tion will do if the court par­tially or fully overturns the law. “We’re fo­cused on im­ple­ment­ing the law and we are con­fi­dent that the law is con­sti­tu­tional.”

Mean­while, Repub­li­cans face the dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that the court could up­hold the law, pulling their claims that it’s un­con­sti­tu­tional right out from un­der them. But they tried to paint the jus­tices’ ap­par­ent skep­ti­cism of the in­di­vid­ual man­date as a vic­tory in and of it­self, be­ing glee­ful that the hear­ing seemed to go well for their side.

“Democrats are play­ing de­fense right now be­cause of the ques­tions the Supreme Court was ask­ing and it feels like it’s fallen right into the hands of Repub­li­cans,” said GOP strate­gist Ron Bon­jean.

Mr. Bon­jean said that if the court up­holds the law, Repub­li­cans will try to lever­age it to their ad­van­tage, telling vot­ers they need to win the pres­i­dency and a ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate to over­turn it.

The key would be how closely the court splits the vote, said Demo­cratic strate­gist Paul Gold­man. If the court up­holds the law 5-4, Repub­li­cans can still point to the fact that four jus­tices op­posed it.

“It takes away their ar­gu­ment that you vi­o­lated the Con­sti­tu­tion, but it doesn’t take away their ar­gu­ment that it was a bad law and that it was an over­the-top use of gov­ern­ment au­thor­ity,” he said.

The court spent three days hear­ing chal­lenges to the law, with the swingvote jus­tices ap­pear­ing skep­ti­cal of the in­di­vid­ual man­date that re­quires Amer­i­cans to have health in­sur­ance.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion rushed to de­fend Solic­i­tor Gen­eral Don­ald Ver­rilli af­ter some com­men­ta­tors crit­i­cized his de­fense of the Af­ford­able Care Act, with CNN con­trib­u­tor Jef­frey Toobin call­ing it a “train wreck” for Mr. Obama.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid jumped to Mr. Ver­rilli’s de­fense, telling re­porters Tues­day that just be­cause the jus­tices asked tough ques­tions, it doesn’t mean they’ve al­ready de­cided to knock the man­date down.

“It’s good to spec­u­late as to what might hap­pen, but be­lieve me, those nine men and women are ex­tremely smart, and a lot of times they probe with those ques­tions, not in any way to tip their mitt as to how they’re go­ing to vote on it,” Mr. Reid said.

Some Democrats went so far as to em­brace the pos­si­bil­ity of an over­turn, with for­mer Pres­i­dent Clin­ton strate­gist James Carville telling CNN’S Wolf Bl­itzer that over­turn­ing the health care law would be a po­lit­i­cal touchdown for Democrats. Health care costs would es­ca­late and Repub­li­cans would carry the blame, he said.

“Just as a pro­fes­sional Demo­crat, there’s noth­ing bet­ter to me than over­turn­ing this thing 5-4 and then the Re­pub­li­can Party will own the health care sys­tem for the fore­see­able fu­ture,” Mr. Carville said. “And I re­ally be­lieve that. That is not spin.”

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