The top Democratic elected officials in Iowa say the U.S. Supreme Court “got it right today” by upholding the health care reform law President Obama championed, while Iowa’s top Republicans are blasting it.
Senator Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate committee that helped craft the law, spoke with Iowa reporters by phone late this morning.
“For those of us who believe that quality health care is a right and not a privilege, this is a great victory,” Harkin said.
According to Harkin, “America’s families, businesses and economy” benefit from the opinion.
“The Supreme Court has made clear what we’ve known all along, that those trying to block health care reform are standing on the wrong side of history,” Harkin said.
Republican Governor Terry Branstad called it a “disastrous decision” that will mean “a future of higher costs, higher taxes and increasing debt for Iowans.” Republican Senator Chuck Grassley said the ruling “throws the issue into the arms of the American people” in this fall’s presidential election.
“The legislation, as you know, was sold to congress and to the people of this country under the false pretense because the president said that he wasn’t going to raise taxes and that this bill didn’t raise taxes,” Grassley said.
The Supreme Court has ruled the law’s “mandate” that Americans buy health insurance is constitutional under the power congress has to levy taxes. Grassley said that means Barack Obama has “fought for and signed one of the biggest taxes ever” — a motivating factor for Republican and Republican-leaning voters in the fall election.
“I think without a doubt conservatives and Tea Party types are going to be more active,” Grassley said.
Harkin argued today’s ruling will help shift public opinion toward the president who signed the bill into law.
“I think now most Americans — now that this cloud has been lifted and it is constitutional — I think they’ll begin to look at it and start to say, ‘O.K., now, what’s in it for me? What does it do for me?'” Harkin said this morning. “And I think as we march along, week by week, up until the election, I think more and more people are going to say, ‘You know, this benefits me.'”
The court defined the penalty assessed for those who don’t buy health insurance as a tax, and ruled the federal government has broad taxing authority.
“What the Affordable Care Act says, basically — and what the Supreme court has upheld — is that you cannot be a free rider and then impose your health care costs on everyone else,” Harkin said. “That’s what they’ve said, so now we’re all going to be in the pool together.”
Grassley pointed to President Obama’s previous statement that the penalty provisions in the law — penalties for people who fail to buy health insurance — was not a tax.
“That’s going to mean that taxes are going to be highlighted to a greater extent during the presidential election,” Grassley said.
Today’s decision ensures the power of the government is “just as strong as ever,” according to Grassley.
“If the power to tax can make you buy insurance, can they make you buy Chevrolets because the government owns 27 percent of General Motors and if you don’t buy a Chevrolet you’re going to pay a tax?” Grassley asked rhetorically during a telephone conference call with reporters.
Congressman Bruce Braley, a Democrat from Waterloo, issued a written statement saying: “The Supreme Court got it right today. This decision is good news for the middle class and affordable healthcare.”
Braley said the decision means many other critical reforms will stay in place, like letting an estimated 18,000 Iowans stay on their parents’ insurance up to the age of 26 and requiring insurance policies to cover breast cancer screenings.
In a written statement, the Iowa Hospital Association noted that “while there will always be debate over the policy details, there remains a national consensus that everyone should have access to insurance coverage and delivery of care needs to be more efficient with higher standards of quality.”
AUDIO of Harkin conference call with reporters (mp3 28:00)
AUDIO of Grassley conference call with reporters (mp3 16:00)
(This story was updated at 12:41 p.m. with additional information & audio)