President Barack Obama used the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold his landmark health care law today to tout its benefits and appeal to the country to move forward, even as presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney reiterated his pledge to repeal it if he defeats the president in November.
Obama, speaking in the East Room of the White House, rattled off the bill’s benefits, which he said have broad popular support, and defended the individual mandate at the heart of the law while acknowledging it isn’t popular.
“I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular and resisted the idea when I ran for office,” Obama said of the mandate.
“It should be pretty clear right now that I didn’t do this because I believed it was good politics,” he said. “I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.”
Obama said that without the mandate, people who can afford health insurance but do not buy it go to emergency rooms once they get sick. “The rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums.”
Obama noted that his challenger, Romney, came to the same conclusion in Massachusetts, which charges residents a tax penalty of up to half the cost of a health insurance plan if they don’t buy one under the law Romney signed as governor.
Above all, Obama called on the country to move on. “The highest court in the land has now spoken,” he said, offering to work to improve it. But he said that the country can’t afford to refight the battles from two years ago.
“It’s time to move forward,” and deal with the pressing issue of the day — jobs, he said.
Romney vowed to repeal the law.
But he framed this issue as one that voters can have a say on. He said the presidential election is now a fundamental choice between keeping and repealing Obama’s health care law.
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 — borrowing language from the Supreme Court decision, which ruled that the mandate to purchase health insurance is constitutional because Congress has the power to levy taxes on people who don’t buy it.
Romney also reiterated his previous opposition to “Obamacare,” saying it would depress job creation, exacerbate the federal deficit and give Washington too much control over Americans’ health care. He pledged to spearhead repeal beginning on his first day as president.
“Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion. Obamacare cuts Medicare — cuts Medicare by approximately $500 billion,” Romney said. “Obamacare puts the federal government between you and your doctor.”
Romney added that he would “repeal and replace” the president’s health care law with legislation that maintains the current statute’s prohibition against refusing coverage based on a pre-existing medical condition, while ensuring that people could keep the insurance they currently have, if they choose.
Neither Obama nor Romney took questions.
Correction: 1:09 p.m.
An earlier version of this article gave an incorrect amount for the size of the tax increase Mitt Romney referred to. Romney called the Affordable Care Act a $500 billion tax increase.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.