June 28--The four Republican candidates for U.S. Senate condemned the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the individual mandate for health insurance on Thursday while the lone Democratic candidate said she disagreed with those who want to rewrite the law.
"Today's ruling by justices appointed by presidents of both parties is an independent legal judgment," said U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Dane County Democrat. "It is now time to come together and make this work."
Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon), businessman Eric Hovde, businessman and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson all vowed to repeal the health law needs if elected.
In a 5-4 decision, the court upheld key provisions of President Barack Obama's health care legislation, including the requirement that people have health insurance by 2014.
The law had come under fire from conservatives and most Republicans, and the GOP Senate candidates in Wisconsin were no exception.
Thompson, health and human services secretary under President George W. Bush, says he opposes the law. But he has been attacked for his views on the subject, and comments that he has made over time on the law were criticized on Thursday and are sure to be a flash point of debate during the election.
After the ruling was issued, Thompson said in a statement that his first vote as a senator would be repeal the law, and that he would work with Gov. Scott Walker to make sure the law was not implemented in Wisconsin.
Referring to his tenure as health secretary under Bush, Thompson said he had ideas and experience to bring down the cost of health care and increase availability.
Fitzgerald, meanwhile, said in a statement that, "President Obama may have won a battle today but it is likely to cost him the war in the ballot booth this fall.
"If there is to be one positive to take away from today's ruling, it is that the court has clearly defined Obamacare as what it is -- the largest tax increase on the middle class in history."
In a statement, Hovde said that "one of my top priorities as a U.S. Senator will be to repeal and replace this trillion-dollar disaster with consumer-driven, free-market solutions, and I am confident that the American people will send a message to Washington this November that they feel the same way."
Hovde has called for a free-market approach for health care but believes the government has a role to play. He supports a plan advanced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin that would permit government subsidies for health insurance for those who can't afford it.
In an interview, Hovde said Thompson had supported the health care bill on behalf of clients while working in Washington, D.C., after leaving office.
"Tommy changes his mind at every convenient time that suits him," Hovde said.
Neumann called the court's decision "faulty," and said the ruling "means we have to elect conservatives to the Senate this fall to end Obamacare and eliminate the individual mandate."
He noted that during his run for governor in 2010 he collected more than 25,000 signatures from those who opposed the law. "This is not a politically expedient stance for me: this is who I have always been and who I will be in the Senate," Neumann said in a statement.
One of the most vocals critics of Thompson on health care has been the Club for Growth, a national antitax group.
The group says that Thompson has made public statements showing he supported the individual mandate. The Club for Growth has criticized Thompson for claiming he never supported the mandate.
PolitiFact Wisconsin has examined Thompson's stands on health care reform and found that Thompson has had reservations about health care reform legislation, but also spoke positively about it.
The Club for Growth released a video Wednesday in which Thompson says that he supported the individual mandate. He made the comments during a C-SPAN broadcast in April 2006 in an appearance with Donna Shalala, health secretary under President Bill Clinton.
On Thursday, Club for Growth released a second video. In it, Thompson told CNBC in November 2010 that he didn't believe that Republicans would be able to repeal the law. "Why push a cart uphill when you know it's not going to be able to get to the top?" Thompson said.
In a statement, Chris Chocola, president of Club for Growth, called Thompson a "big-government Republican who worked with liberal Democrats to help pass Obamacare."
But the Thompson campaign says he has a record of opposing the law and the mandate, noting that he testified before Congress in May 2008 in opposition to the law.
Thompson's spokesman, Brian Nemoir, also said that CNBC interview was taken out of context and that his comments didn't mean that he supported the law.
Nemoir provided a partial transcript of Thompson's comments before the Senate Finance Committee in 2008 where he said that it was unacceptable that 47 million Americans did not have health insurance.
"However, I am not convinced that the individual mandate is the correct approach," Thompson said. "We have seen in Massachusetts that the individual mandate approach is not effective at covering the most vulnerable part of the population, that part of the population which needs coverage the most."
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