Supreme Court decision likely to stir up conservative Republicans
By Karissa Minn
SALISBURY — Thursday’s Supreme Court decision was a victory for the Obama administration, but some political analysts say it may not look like one in November.
“This will definitely energize the conservative base of the Republican party,” said Michael Bitzer, political science professor at Catawba College. “They have despised this law since it was first floated.”
In a 5-4 decision Thursday morning, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld almost all of President Barack Obama’s health care reform law. That includes a controversial requirement that virtually all Americans have health insurance — or pay a penalty.
“Nobody expected this,” Bitzer said.
The decision is “certainly a welcomed piece of news” for Obama, he said, and it will energize his fellow Democrats right away.
“He’ll say, ‘The thing we fought for for the past three and a half years is constitutional,’ ” he said. “The Republicans are going to have to be much more aggressive. They don’t have the Supreme Court to legitimize their argument.”
But the political tide could shift by November, especially if Democrats move on from the issue while Republicans stay fired up.
Normally, Bitzer said, independents and moderates hold the key votes in general elections. But this year, “it’s going to be the battle between two bases.” He said Obama could re-ignite his base if he urges them to defend the new law by voting for him and other Democrats.
“In my opinion,” Bitzer said, “you generally get more people to show up when they feel threatened than … to ratify or support something.”
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Richard Hudson, Republican candidate for North Carolina’s 8th District in the U.S. House, said he thinks the ruling will bring more focus to the Congressional elections.
“For those of us who want to repeal and replace Obamacare, the only venue to do that now is through Congress,” Hudson said.
Both the campaigns of Hudson and his runoff opponent, dentist Scott Keadle, stress their opposition to the health care law.
“A large majority of the American people were against Obamacare at the time it was passed, and I think that’s even more the case now,” Keadle said.
The two candidates are running for the chance to unseat Rep. Larry Kissell, a Democrat, in the fall. They both criticize the incumbent for voting to keep the law when he had the chance to repeal it.
Kissell could not be reached for comment Thursday. His communications director, Christopher Schuler, said the representative was on the floor of the House as it held Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress.
“I do know that he is the only person in this race who has voted against Obamacare, and he has done so three times,” Schuler said.
The Supreme Court rejected two of the administration’s arguments for the law’s individual mandate, but it upheld a third that construed it as a tax.
Congress has the power to levy taxes under the U.S. Constitution, but that argument is giving political ammunition to some anti-tax Republicans.
“For over a year, Barack Obama told us that Obamacare was not a tax,” Keadle said in an email to the Post. “Whatever he calls it, it’s infringement on our rights, it’s bad medicine, it’s bad for our economy, and it is bad for America.”
Hudson said he is outraged by the court’s decision.
“When our federal government can force American citizens to purchase a commercial product under threat of an oppressive tax, all of our freedom is threatened,” he said in a press release. “It is more important than ever that we send consistent conservatives to Congress.”
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Sen. Kay Hagan and Rep. Mel Watt, both Democrats, released statements Thursday applauding the Supreme Court’s decision.
Hagan celebrated the end of a “divisive debate,” but for some candidates and office holders, it’s far from over.
Watt said the ruling “represents a giant step toward making our citizens and our economy healthier.” He said the new law will help cover those who are now uninsured, and whose care fell on the backs of the insured and taxpayers.
His Republican opponent in the 12th District, Jack Brosch, said in a phone interview that he found the ruling disappointing.
“I think it is an affront to states’ rights and the 10th Amendment,” Brosch said.
He said the news shouldn’t change his campaign strategy much. As the challenger sees it, Watt’s stance on the health care law is just another aspect of his view of “government as a nanny state.”
Rep. Virginia Foxx, a Republican representing the 5th District, said in a statement that she is greatly troubled by the decision. She supports “repealing Obamacare in its entirety and starting fresh on health care reform with the American people as our partners.”
Foxx’s Democratic challenger, Elisabeth Motsinger, took the opposite stance. “One of my top priorities as a representative in Congress will be to ensure that all Americans have access to health care,” Motsinger said in a press release. “As a physician assistant, I have seen the devastation that lack of coverage creates in the lives of my patients.”
A Thursday press release from Sen. Richard Burr doesn’t share his opinion of the ruling. The Republican thanks members of the Supreme Court for their service and says he is committed to improving the nation’s “broken” health care system.
On his website, Burr says the law should be repealed because he believes it expands government, increases health care costs and creates an unsustainable federal commitment.
Contact reporter Karissa Minn at 704-797-4222.
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