In responding to the Supreme Court’s 5 to 4 ruling Thursday that upheld Obamacare, the president chose a somber and businesslike venue. Much as he did in reporting on the death of Osama Bin Laden, Mr. Obama made an address to the nation from the East Room of the White House with only “pool” reporters (those who cover and travel with him exclusively) present.
While insisting that “politics” and the traditional Washington interpretation of “who won or who lost” was not important and “completely misses the point,” the president did offer a “sneak preview” of how he is likely to defend his most significant policy achievement on the campaign trail this year.
Speaking to those he claimed “whose lives will be more secure” with today’s court ruling, Mr. Obama listed those who were benefiting from the portions of the Affordable Care Act that had already been implemented. He specifically cited those who would no longer be denied coverage by insurance companies for pre-existing conditions, those Americans under 26 who could remain on their parents’ health policy into early adulthood, and the senior citizens who had been saving on the cost of prescription drugs as a result of the Act (although more than a few Republican lawmakers have argued that the latter is more due to the landmark prescription drug act enacted while George W. Bush was president in ’03 than it is to Obamacare).
“I didn’t do this because of good politics,” insisted Mr. Obama — although one could easily interpret the president’s remarks as reaching out to those he hopes to secure votes from. He also referred to the “30 million Americans who can’t afford health care,” assuring them that the full implementation in 2014 of the legislation that he is identified with will make it possible for those Americans to have coverage.
Mr. Obama clearly could not resist taking advantage of the court ruling upholding the controversial mandate portion of the legislation. Now, he said, “insurance companies won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy” because the law was now clearly in place requiring “people who can afford to buy health insurance should buy it.”
In standing by the mandates in Obamacare, the Democratic president reminded Americans that he did not initially support this concept, but that it was was supported by many Republicans, “including the Republican nominee for president” — a clear reference to Mitt Romney’s health care legislation implemented with mandates while he was governor of Massachusetts. Without argument, the president and his party will make sure the voters are reminded of this one.
Overall, this was a moment of triumph for the president. But given his references to politics and hints of 2014 campaign rhetoric, one has to wonder if Republicans are not so unhappy to have the majority opinion state clearly that Obamacare is a tax — and that we will hear a lot about that in the days and weeks ahead.