Here is the fourth issue of Capital Brief, from July 3, focusing on the impact of the Supreme Court's historic ruling to uphold Obama's health care reform.
Click below to read the Brief.
Capital Brief, n°4 – July 3, 2012
Health Care Victory for Dems – But Not Yet in the Clear
· In an unexpected turn of events, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the entirety of the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare to some) including the controversial “mandate” requiring able, uninsured Americans to buy insurance or face a monetary penalty.
· The Court voted down political lines, with the deciding vote cast by Chief Justice John Roberts. Roberts voted to uphold the law by insisting the “mandate” provision is actually a “tax” which can be constitutionally imposed by Congress.
· Democrats rejoice the news, rightly counting this as a historic long-term victory and immediate validation of Obama’s use of power by all three branches of government. It provides a needed boost and a reason to discuss Romney’s record as Massachusetts governor (where he signed the law on which Obamacare is based).
· Republicans highlight the law passed only because it was deemed a “tax.” They recall Obama’s promise not to raise taxes on middle class families. They count the ruling a failure for the president because his core legal argument was rebuffed (though the law was ultimately maintained on other grounds).
· A legal victory for the Democrats. A decision that crossed the Court’s partisan political divisions, affirmed a moral vision for America, and maintained the Court’s credibility after a spate of recent party-line conservative rulings.
· Presented another occasion for Obama to offer distinct, sweeping social blueprint for America: combination of health care, support of gay marriage, recent executive order on immigration, urgency of Obama’s climate/environment message.
· But current electoral climate makes a mitigated victory for Obama. Why?
o Public opinion does not understand or support the law. A majority approve a repeal (52%). There is considerable fear of additional costs, disdain for buy-in requirement, and confusion about how actual benefits will improve coverage and save costs (law to be rolled out by 2014).
o Conservative voters and wary Independents now “fired up” (Palin): the only option to overturn Obamacare is to elect Romney (promised to gut law).
o Voters’ central concern is still the economy. Obama team can improve public discussion of law’s benefits, but will be discreet to due to law’s unpopularity. Want to avoid perception that president is distracted from job creation/economy. A victory on which Obama cannot actively campaign.
o There will be obstacles in execution. Namely states opting not to implement law hoping for Romney victory (Gov. Jindal, Louisiana; Gov. Scott, Florida) or refusing Medicare expansion and accompanying federal dollars.