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All Eyes in Washington on Supreme Court

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
Tea party activist William Temple marches in front of the Supreme Court on Wednesday as the court prepares to hand down its decision on the Affordable Care Act this morning.

The White House and Capitol Hill have in place their messaging machinery for the Supreme Court’s ruling today on President Barack Obama’s signature health care overhaul — affirming it, relegating it to the dustbin of history or somewhere in between.

Democrats are aware of the health care law’s polling numbers and plan to talk about the more popular individual pieces of the plan — regardless of whether the court strikes them.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday, “The fact is, the Affordable Care Act gives hardworking middle-class families the security they deserve, and we are confident that the law is constitutional,” adding, “We all will await the decision and learn of it at the same time that you do.”

Carney rattled off benefits already in effect, such as preventive care for seniors and allowing adults under age 26 to stay on their parents’ health care plans. Expect more of the same today, regardless of how the court rules, Democrats said.

“We are anticipating that the law will be upheld, but we will be ready for any scenario,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said, with many Democrats waiting to take their cues from Obama. “I don’t think it will be that hard to get our Members to coalesce around talking about the most popular reforms.”

The aide said, however, that there hasn’t been as much war-gaming of the decision given the many possible outcomes. And while there is the possibility Democrats will push legislation to restore some reforms if they are struck down, doing so could be politically problematic, especially because everyone wants to focus on jobs and the economy.

If the law is upheld, the Democrats’ message is easier: It’s time to move on. “We will portray this as a case closed and finally seek to put the partisan arguments behind us so we can focus on issues related to jobs and the economy,” the aide said.

Senate Democrats already plan on bringing up the president’s small-business tax cut after the Independence Day recess.

Senate GOP aides dismiss any idea that Republicans will be on the hook for trying to restore pieces of the law, and they don’t expect Democrats will risk bringing anything health-care-related to the floor before the elections.

“It is their law that they jammed through on a party-line vote, no matter what the cost,” said Antonia Ferrier, spokeswoman for Senate Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

If the law is upheld, Republican leaders are expected to pivot to the position that the public will have to elect Mitt Romney and a stronger Republican Congress to repeal it.

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