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“The psychological impact of a Supreme Court decision saying this law is constitutional is a positive thing for those of us who supported it and especially for the president,” Durbin noted.
An air of relief shrouded the Senate Democrats’ weekly Thursday lunch, with leaders taking a victory lap after the closed-door session. The general sense is that Democrats now feel free to move on from the health care issue, even though Republicans are poised to make that difficult.
Already, Democratic leaders were stumbling Thursday when asked about the ruling that the mandate was a tax — an argument that was quickly becoming a GOP talking point.
When asked whether he thought it was a tax, Reid demurred and said he was no constitutional law scholar. Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.), who heads the Democrats’ communication and policy arm, also sidestepped the question.
Senate Republicans are already considering ways they can repeal the bulk of the law next year via the budget reconciliation process, which would need just 51 votes, said Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.). Of course, that plan assumes the GOP wins enough seats in November to take control of the chamber and pass a budget.
“That is not something necessarily we’ve given a lot of consideration to yet, but we are definitely going to make every attempt — hopefully with a new president and a majority in the Senate — to repeal the law and replace it with common-sense reforms that actually do lower costs for most Americans,” Thune said of a reconciliation bill. And he noted that there could be a political silver lining.
“With regard to the politics, I do think it provides great clarity in the fall campaign,” Thune said. “We’ve said all along that irrespective of what the court says we perceive this to be really bad policy and we will take that case and that argument to the American people.”
But Schumer said he thinks the Democrats now have the upper hand politically.
“The longer they talk about wanting to repeal health care instead of focusing on jobs and the economy and the middle class, the harder it’s going to be for them to ever get that majority,” Schumer said after the press conference.
David M. Drucker contributed to this report.