Reactions in state capitals across the country to the Supreme Court’s landmark health care ruling Thursday broke down, not surprisingly, along political lines.
Republican attorneys general, including those in Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states that joined a legal challenge to the law, blasted the high court’s decision and painted it as a blow to individual freedom and states’ rights. Their Democratic counterparts applauded the decision as both a key victory for the Obama administration and a step forward in the ongoing effort to provide all Americans with health insurance coverage.
While the justices upheld the law’s individual mandate — with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s left-leaning contingent in a 5-4 judgment several Republican governors say they’ll wait to begin implementing the act, in the hopes a future Republican majority in Washington will undo it.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, fresh off his own electoral vindication after fending off a labor union-led recall effort earlier this month, said a November victory by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney would spell the beginning of the end of the law.
“Wisconsin will not take action to implement Obamacare. I am hopeful political changes in Washington, D.C., later this year ultimately end the implementation of this law at the federal level,” he said in a statement just after the court announced its controversial decision. “If there is no political remedy from Washington and the law moves forward, it would require the majority of people in Wisconsin to pay more money for less health care.” Other Republicans were even harsher in their critiques. Colorado Attorney General John W. Suthers, who signed onto the lawsuit challenging the act, called the outcome “a blow to our constitutional system of federalism.” “We have a fundamental interest in protecting state authority and individual rights in the face of the ever-widening scope of federal power,” he said.
South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican, said “many states will simply not be able to afford this new, onerous mandate” from Washington. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett said the law’s individual mandate, which forces nearly everyone to buy health insurance or pay a tax, “may turn out to the one of the largest tax increases in the history of our nation” and said his administration will do all it can “to ensure the negative impact of this law affects the lives of Pennsylvanians as little as possible.” Officials in Texas, Alabama, Ohio and other Republican-led states expressed similar concerns.
Democrats, on the other hand, were nearly universal in their praise of the ruling.
“The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is a historic victory for the tens of millions of Americans who will be covered by health insurance,” said New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman. “The law’s effects will be significant in our state, where over 2 million people are uninsured. Over a million uninsured New Yorkers will soon have access to affordable coverage.” In Massachusetts, Attorney General Martha Coakley said the ruling will allow the rest of the nation to follow in the footsteps of the Bay State, which implemented its own health-reform policy during Mr. Romney’s time as governor.
“Massachusetts has already begun tackling the next great health care challenge controlling costs for our families and businesses. With today’s decision, I hope our nation will continue to move forward and do the same,” she said.