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Democrats Take Short Health Care Victory Lap

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Angela Botticella (center) of Know Your Care celebrates with supporters of the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court announces its decision about the constitutionality of President Barack Obama’s signature legislative accomplishment.

Romney again vowed to act to repeal the law the day he takes office.

“This is the time of choice for the American people. Our mission is clear: If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama,” he said.

Speaking to reporters from a Washington, D.C., office building with the Capitol Dome in the background, Romney called the Affordable Care Act a $500 billion tax increase and argued it would depress job creation, increase the deficit and give too much control to Washington.

Romney said he would “repeal and replace” the health care law with legislation that maintains the current statute’s prohibition against refusing coverage based on pre-existing medical conditions and ensuring that people could keep the insurance they currently have, if they so choose. Romney hasn’t been specific on how he would accomplish those ends.

But in a theme likely to continue through November, senior Obama administration officials noted that Romney was the architect of the tax penalty, and they said the tax penalty in Massachusetts is more onerous than the one in Obama’s overhaul. They suggested that less than
1 percent of the public would end up paying the national penalty and argued that many more Americans would actually be getting a tax cut in the form of tax credits to buy health insurance.

While House Republicans announced their plan to hold a repeal vote, Senate Democrats said they will bring up Obama’s proposed business tax cut package after the July Fourth break.

“The Supreme Court has spoken, the matter is settled,” Reid said at a press conference with Democratic leaders. “With millions of Americans still struggling in this tough economy, we can’t look back, we need to look forward.”

Obama and Reid also suggested that they would be open to improving the law, but Reid was clear that any effort would have to wait until after the elections.

Democrats hope that their narrowly tailored approach highlighting the particular, and popular, benefits of the health care law will eventually gain traction, even as they have had trouble ginning up support for the law as a whole and the mandate in particular.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said the approach Democrats have taken in the lead-up to the court’s decision could continue through November.

“When you get into specifics, people say, ‘Yes! My 25-year-old can be covered on my family policy’ and ‘My baby with an asthmatic situation can’t be denied health insurance,’” he said. “Those are real-world life experiences people can relate to.”

Senior administration officials also suggested that they don’t expect polling on the issue to change much one way or another in the wake of the decision; nor will Obama make a major new effort to sell the issue beyond what he has already done. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 52 percent of respondents viewed the law unfavorably.

Still, the officials suggested the public will not be eager to have another nasty Washington fight over the issue, which they said is what would happen next year if Romney is elected.

Politics aside, Democrats were bucked up by the decision.

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