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Democrats Wary on Court Health Care Ruling

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said she plans to continue defending the Affordable Care Act as the country waits for a Supreme Court decision on the law.

As a result, the Democratic response will focus on the popular parts of the law, such as allowing people to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26 and requiring insurance companies to cover those with pre-existing conditions. Pelosi’s office has been circulating talking points for months highlighting how many millions of Americans those provisions have helped.

Republicans plan to bring such proposals to a vote in the House. “We welcome that,” said House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.), because he wants to highlight that the GOP will have a hard time paying for the measures if the Supreme Court strikes down the individual mandate that all Americans buy insurance, which provides much of the funding for the other, more popular, parts of the law.

“We want them to answer how they’re going to pay for that,” he said. “The mandate, if it’s struck down, pretty much guts the bill.”

While a decision against the law would likely be read as a blow to Obama, a decision by the court — regardless of the outcome — could help Congressional Democrats politically by taking away the issue from Republicans, who have used it as campaign fodder.

“The saliency for voters is reduced after a decision,” the aide said, adding that if the law or parts of it are struck down, it is no longer a threat.

The case has also increased the tension between the court and the legislative branch, with some Democrats frustrated by an appearance that the Supreme Court is playing politics.

“Democrats have a sense that the Supreme Court has weighed into the political sphere and are frustrated because they are not allowed to argue back” for fear of threatening the independence of the court, a Senate Democratic aide said.

The issue has also taken a toll on how the court is viewed. More than one-third of Americans, or 36 percent, disapprove of the way the Supreme Court is handling its job, according to a New York Times/CBS poll released Thursday.

Some Republicans have charged that Democrats and the president have crossed the line with their attacks. In a floor speech on Thursday, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) admonished them.

“I sense — and a lot of my colleagues share this view — that the president himself, his Democrat colleagues in the House and the Senate, their friends in the media, and liberal government, pro-health-care advocates have stepped up undignified, not justified attacks on the court,” Sessions said.

“The court’s reputation will be damaged if it bows to this political bullying, but not if it follows the Constitution,” Sessions continued. “I think it’s wrong to disparage and threaten the court during the pendency of a case in order to influence the outcome. These are important questions of law. I have an opinion, but the court has a duty. And that duty is for them to decide the case before them impartially, as a neutral umpire, without counting the crowd noise.”

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