The Quad-Cities’ congressional delegation — and the people challenging them in this year’s election — looked ahead to November in reacting to Thursday’s health-care decision.
Republicans, while criticizing the decision to uphold the act, immediately sought to make the case that defeating President Barack Obama and other Democrats was the key to repealing it.
Meanwhile, most Democrats praised the decision but said they were willing to tweak the law.
“I think this throws it into the arms of the American people,” Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, told reporters on a conference call this morning.
Grassley said the court’s decision validated the idea that the individual mandate is a tax. He said he didn’t personally believe that, and Democrats argued during the 2009 debate that it wasn’t. Still, he said the Supreme Court has spoken.
“It’s a tax today, because that’s what the court said,” Grassley told reporters.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, also looked ahead in reacting to the ruling.
“The choice is to go forward or be dragged backward,” he said. “I believe the great majority of Americans want to go forward — and today the Supreme Court made clear what we have long known: that the opposition is standing on the wrong side of history.”
Republicans and Democrats disagreed on how voters would react. Republicans emphasized their belief the law will enlarge government and that people would recoil from the tax imposed on them if they don’t sign up for health insurance.
Democrats, meanwhile, focused on the benefits in the law and their belief it would begin to control costs.
“The Supreme Court got it right today,” Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, said. “This decision is good news for the middle class and affordable health care.”
“It’s not a perfect law,” he added.
He said he would seek to bring lawmakers in both parties together to improve it.
Rep. Bobby Schilling, R-Ill., said in a statement that he is disappointed in the ruling but that he would work to roll back “harmful” provisions. He added that Congress should “start over” and take a step-by-step bipartisan approach to health-care reform.
The Facebook page for his re-election campaign was more succinct: “I’m in absolute disbelief,” he said.
U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-Iowa, said he, too, would work with other lawmakers to make changes, if needed.
“Today’s decision will bring stability and certainty to Iowans as they make critical health-care choices for themselves and their families,” he said.
Democrat Cheri Bustos, who is challenging Schilling, neither praised nor condemned the Supreme Court decision.
“The Supreme Court has ruled, and now our leaders in Washington need to move on,” she said Thursday.
She added the country needs to reform health care but ought to put a greater focus on the economy.
How Congress will deal with the court’s decision to overturn the law’s mechanism to force states to enlarge Medicaid is up in the air, and that was reflected in the reaction of area lawmakers to Thursday’s ruling.
The Medicaid expansion was to add 17 million Americans — and 60,000 to 70,000 Iowans — to the insurance rolls. That’s more than the 12 million Americans that even the controversial mandate was expected to add.
Some state governors have been critical of the provision, saying it will cost states money. Now that the court has ruled that the federal government can’t take away existing Medicaid funds to force the expansion, it’s not clear what impact that will have. The states and federal government finance the program, which provides health-care coverage to the poor and disabled.
The law called for the federal government to pay for the state’s share of the costs of the expansion for several years, but eventually states would have to pick up 10 percent of the bill. The ruling would appear to give states the right to opt out of the act’s expansion of Medicaid, which would cover people whose incomes are up to 133 percent of the poverty line.
Harkin said he hadn’t studied the decision as it pertains to Medicaid. But he said he saw the law’s Medicaid provision as a “stopgap” and that the federal government could give states incentives to ensure no one falls through the cracks until they can get into health exchanges.
Grassley said it was too soon to say whether he would support or oppose having the federal government pick up the cost of people who might not get coverage because of the court’s ruling on the Medicaid provision.