June 28--Providing a victory for President Barack Obama, and maintaining a key campaign argument for Republican Mitt Romney, the U.S. Supreme Court today upheld key components of Obama's controversial healthcare reform law.
In a 5-4 decision, including conservative Chief Justice John Roberts' supporting the ruling, the court found that the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act violated commerce laws, but could still stand because it can be levied as a congressional tax.
The mandate, a key element of Obama's healthcare law, sparked intense outrage from conservatives who have argued the government does not have the right to force citizens to pay for a government service.
The court's four liberal justices, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, joined Roberts in the outcome. Justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Though derided by critics as "Obamacare," the healthcare overhaul was the product of elaborate compromises by the president, and was based on a Heritage Foundation proposal and Romney's own healthcare reform while governor of Massachusetts.
The ruling provides Obama with a precious election-year policy victory on an issue critics in his own party said he failed to properly communicate to the nation. He'll now be able to use the court's decision on his move to provide coverage for more than 30 million uninsured Americans as a platform to re-cast the law to the nation.
But the decision also allows GOP nominee Romney to continue railing against the unpopular law on the campaign trail. The law was a central rallying point for the right during the Republican primary process, stirring all GOP presidential contenders to pledge it's immediate repeal once in office.
And it continues to galvanize conservatives against Obama.
"People tend to stay madder about losing than winning," said Andrew Rudalevige, a political science professor at Dickinson College.
James Broussard, a Republican Party expert at Lebanon Valley College, agreed that the ruling could benefit Romney.
"His people will be disappointed and angry and it might increase their intensity to turn out in November," Broussard said. "It'll increase Romney's ability to say 'The only way we can protect ourselves from this enormous overreach of federal power is to elect me and give me a Republican Congress'."
The ruling stunned political observers, most of whom had expected the court to negate all or part of the historic law.
The ruling will have also come as a blow to Gov. Tom Corbett, who as attorney general joined 13 other states challenging the healthcare act. Within minutes of the historic ruling, Corbett and current Attorney General Linda Kelly were being offered up to reporters by the Republican National Committee as surrogates to speak on the decision.
Other prominent Republicans took to Twitter expressing disbelief at the ruling.
--"I thought @barackobama said it wasnt a #tax," tweeted Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.
--Former GOP vice presidential candidate Sara Palin wrote: "Obama lied to the American people. Again. He said it wasn't a tax. Obama lies; freedom dies.
--House Majority Leader John Boehner was already hunkering down for a future fight to overturn the law. "Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety," Boehner wrote on the social media website.
--Added former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a midstate native: "Obamacare ruling guarantees repeal will be the biggest issue this November."
Obama supporters expressed exasperated relief.
--"Victory for the American people! Millions of American families and children will have certainty of health care benefits + affordable care," tweeted House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was a key figure in the law's passage.
--Donna Brazil, a prominent Obama surrogate, applauded the court for upholding coverage for the nation.
--"Over 32 million Americans will now have a path to health care," Brazil wrote. "What's morally wrong with that folks? Consumers will get more choices. Amen!"
--Added liberal documentary filmmaker Michael Moore: "Most impt part of Obama victory today is that insurance companies can no longer deny coverage because someone has a pre-existing condition."
But despite the elaborate media buildup to the ruling and the outpouring of emotion on both sides of the issue, others said the decision won't affect the presidential election at all.
"It'll be a moot point," said Shirley Anne Warshaw, a presidential scholar at Gettysburg College. "Both sides will move on. The Romney people want to focus on the economy because that's a better issue for them."
SCOTUS Healthcare Decision
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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