House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi… (Pablo Martinez Monsivais…)
WASHINGTON – In the moments after the Supreme Court’s landmark healthcare ruling, Capitol Hill was unnervingly quiet as legislators took time to absorb the ruling. The silence did not last long.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) headed to the Senate floor to mark the milestone.
“Passing the Affordable Care Act was the greatest single step in generations toward ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for every person in America, regardless of where they live, how much money they make,” Reid said. “I’m happy and I’m pleased the Supreme Court put the rule of law ahead of partisanship.”
House Speaker John A. Boehner(R-Ohio) – and tea party groups -- vowed to press forward on efforts to repeal the law.
“Today’s ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety,” Boehner said. “Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country Obamacare.”
Republicans and their allies in this battle said the court ruling underscores the urgency of electing more conservatives to Congress to repeal the law.
“We are focused on taking control of the Senate, reinforcing our 2010 gains in the House, and defeating President Obama,” said Amy Kremer, chairman of Tea Party Express. “These key objectives will open the door for a wave of new conservatives in Washington who are committed to repealing Obamacare.”
Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn.), the chairwoman of the Tea Party Caucus in the House, said: “Today’s Supreme Court decision raises the stakes for the coming months.”
House lawmakers from both parties had been meeting – separately – on Thursday morning behind closed doors before the decision became public. Boehner was expected to be reiterating to members not to “spike the ball” in the event of a favorable ruling. Both parties said they expect the fight to continue both in Congress and on the campaign trail.
"Our struggle isn’t over,’’ said Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma), expecting congressional Republicans to continue to try to dismantle the law "piece by piece.’’
As the court’s decision became known – and initial television reports gave confusing accounts of the outcome -- one congressman, Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-San Diego), was the among the first out with a statement: “In the wake of the Supreme Court declaring the ‘individual mandate’ portion of the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, it is questionable as to whether the rest of the bill can stand,” he said.
Fifteen minutes later his office sent out an “updated” release: “Simply put, we cannot afford the president’s health care plan.”
Some Democrats, though, just savored the moment.
"We’re just ecstatic,’’ Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Lakewood) said. She was in a committee meeting, checking her iPad for word on the court ruling.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), the minority leader – who had long predicted a 6-3 decision from the court – took her moment.
“This decision is a victory for the American people,” Pelosi said. “In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people." Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank) was also in a committee meeting when he got conflicting messages about the ruling.
"I rushed back to the office to watch the coverage with staff,’’ he said. "Along the way, I could hear hoots and hollers from various congressional offices as the staff of different members reacted with elation or upset. Needless-to-say, we were on the elated side."
He said was pleased by the ruling but said he also was pleased for another reason: "The court was at risk of becoming yet another partisan institution if it threw out decades of precedent. The chief justice chose a different legacy, and this was not only the correct legal decision, it was also enormously important to maintaining the independence and reputation of the court."
Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) called it a "sad day for liberty.’’
"The court’s misguided decision is an attack on freedom, an insult to our Constitution, and it will ultimately destroy the best healthcare system in the world,’’ he said. "Chief Justice Roberts once said that the Supreme Court’s job is to apply the law – ‘to call balls and strikes, not to pitch or bat.’ He couldn’t have been more right in saying so, and he couldn’t have been more wrong by choosing to circumvent the Constitution this morning. Even worse, I fear that the high court has opened Pandora’s box by blatantly disregarding the law, and there will no longer be any real limits to what the federal government will be able to force the American people to do.’’