For Minnesota supporters of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Thursday’s Supreme Court decision was a cause for celebration. For opponents, it was a shock and, perhaps, an opportunity.
Within hours, a conservative group, Americans for Prosperity, was announcing plans for a "Hands off My Health Care" rally in Bloomington, calling for the repeal of Obamacare since the courts had upheld its constitutionality.
“Politically, this is probably the best thing that could have happened,” said Sen. Sean Nienow, adding that the decision to uphold the healthcare law could be better for the conservative movement in the long run than if the health insurance mandate had been struck down. “It fires up the base…This could be a victory for those of us who oppose this law.”
Gov. Mark Dayton hailed the decision, which he clears the way for Minnesota to implement the Affordable Care Act.
“I am very pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to fully uphold the Affordable Care Act," Dayton said in a statement. "This ruling is also an affirmation of the reform efforts currently underway in Minnesota to improve the quality and lower the cost of health care. We have long been a national leader in healthcare reform -- a reputation that will be enhanced as we work with private and public sector leaders to implement the Affordable Care Act in Minnesota.”
Democrats and Republicans alike used the Supreme Court’s unexpected 5-4 vote to uphold the healthcare policy as a fundraising springboard.
“Victory,” DFL state party chairman Ken Martin declared in a morning press release. “Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act, which will expand health coverage, lower out-of-pocket costs and end insurance industry abuses like denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions,” Martin wrote in an email appealing for donations to Democratic candidates and causes. “The Supreme Court did not bend to political pressure from the right — they did what was right.”
“ObamaCare still alive,” the Minnesota GOP tweeted in alarm, following up with a fundraising appeal of its own.
“As President Obama and Democrats in Minnesota claim victory today, the Supreme Court’s decision is a reminder that ObamaCare is a massive tax increase on all Americans and another broken campaign promise, and that their victory will be short-lived as voters reject it in November,” the party said in a statement. “While we are disappointed that ObamaCare wasn’t repealed today, we are ready to elect conservatives to Congress this fall who will repeal and replace ObamaCare in its entirety.”
In an afternoon press release, state Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge went on the offensive, suggesting to Minnesota's Democratic congressional delegations: "Don't you think you and President Obama owe you constituents an apology for being dishonest and denying this was a tax?"
“The Supreme Court upheld ObamaCare today because, in their view, it is a tax,though supporters, including the president, insisted it wasn't when passing the bill. Minnesotans deserve answers from our representatives who supported the bill," he said in a statement.
House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, warned that the law, which passed two years ago, would "smother the economy," and hurt Minnesota industry, as well as uninsured workers who will be forced to buy health insurance.
“Look no further than Minnesota’s medical device industry for how Obamacare will slam our economy and kill jobs.Innovative companies that employ highly-skilled workers in well-paying jobs will now be socked with a tax increase for their efforts," Zellers said in a statement. "We are never going to reach our full economic potential when Democrats punish success in order to expand government."
His Democratic counterpart, House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said the ruling should settle the healthcare debate "once and for all" and clear the way for Minnesota to implement Obamacare.
“For Minnesota, this ruling serves as a call to move forward and lead. It creates a real opportunity to build a better health care system for all Minnesotans," he said in a statement. "We need to roll up our sleeves and work to implement the health care law in a way that builds on our nation-leading health care system in Minnesota to improve care and make it more affordable for all Minnesotans.”
Senate Majority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, blasted the health care law's cost, as well as the health issues that it does not address.
"The surprising Supreme Court decision today clarifies one thing: ObamaCare is a tax," Senjem said in a statement. "Most decision-makers generally agree that there are four issues that need to be addressed in the health care debate: access, affordability (cost), quality and over-utilization. Unfortunately, ObamaCare addresses only access, and at a very high price that adds more expenses to a system already drowning in high cost.
The federal ruling was particularly poignant for the lawmakers who have been spearheading the healthcare debate at the state level.
Human Services Commissioner Lucinda Jesson cheered the Supreme Court decision.
“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s decision to fully uphold the Affordable Care Act,” she said in a statement issued on behalf of the commerce and health commissioners as well. “ This ruling is an affirmation of the reform efforts currently underway in Minnesota to improve health and lower the cost of care. ”
“Today’s ruling is a truly historic moment for our country. Upholding of the Affordable Care Act, not only means that Americans will have coverage and health care security, but also that we as a nation are moving forward to ensure a more just and healthier country,” Assistant House Majority Leader Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said in a statement. “Moving forward, I hope we can push aside the political stalemate of the last two years and work together with Republican colleagues to effectively implement these policies so Minnesotans and people across the country can reap the benefits for themselves, their families, and their communities.”
“The benefits of fully implementing the Affordable Care Act are going to be very real for Minnesotans and their families. Most notably for adults and children who currently cannot purchase insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act fixes this policy, making it possible for all to purchase insurance to keep them and their families healthy.
The ranking Democrat on the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee, Rep. Tom Huntley, DFL-Duluth, said Minnesotans will thrive under the health care reforms.
“The benefits of fully implementing the Affordable Care Act are going to be very real for Minnesotans and their families," he said in a statement. "Most notably for adults and children who currently cannot purchase insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. The Affordable Care Act fixes this policy, making it possible for all to purchase insurance to keep them and their families healthy."
For Sen. David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, the ruling of what he sees as a “partisan political overreach” left him “saddened.” He also issued a video statement.
“I am saddened to learn that the Supreme Court has abandoned the principle that the U.S. Constitution limits the power of Congress, and that the American people no longer have the right to participate in the health care system on their own terms without heavy mandates and penalties,” Hann said in a statement. “This excessive intrusion by the Federal Government was enacted in the most partisan way conceivable – no Republicans voted for it and a number of Democrats voted against it…. We need to elect political leaders who are committed to limited government, and who will work to repeal this law and return decision making on health care to individual citizens and the several states.”
The announcement lit up Twitter, Facebook and email inboxes in every corner of the state.
“Justice [John] Roberts helped to make America better today---Kinda a nice Birthday Gift,” tweeted Rep. Leon Lillie, DFL-North St. Paul, whose birthday happened to coincide with a watershed Supreme Court ruling.
The Supreme Court’s ruling does leave the door open for states to opt out of the Affordable Care Act, prompting Rep. Tina Liebling to tweet: “ States that fought ACA will answer to their own populations if they don't expand MA. Low-income people will see why state elections matter.”
“Today would be a good day to donate to conservative candidate campaigns,” tweeted Sue Jeffers, who just so happens to be running as a conservative candidate for the Ramsey County Commission.
Republican Kurt Bills, who is challenging Democratic incumbent U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, sent out what might be the shortest press release of the day: “It’s official: Amy Klobuchar voted for the largest tax increase since the imposition of the income tax. That isn’t a plan for economic recovery and job growth.”
Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, tweeted his skepticism about the shift in the GOP message from "unconstitutional" to "tax increase."
"Not a very good pivot to tax increase, since nobody is actually paying the tax," Winkler tweeted. "Sounds more like desperately seeking new spin."
"RIP #Liberty..... #Obamacare," tweeted Rep. Mary Franson, R-Alexandria.
When the SCOTUSblog tweeted that the Supreme Court ruling meant taht "Obama administration wins," Rep. Carly Melin, DFL-Hibbing, counter-tweeted: "*AMERICA Wins."
State Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, tweeted: "Court rules that Obamacare is a huge tax increase; Constitution in tatters. Time to focus on repeal and free-market reform."
Minnesota interest groups also weighed in on the Supreme Court ruling.
Planned Parenthood of Minnesota released a statement, celebrating the decision: "Because of today’s ruling, millions of women will have access to birth control without a co-pay starting in August 2012 – protecting their health, saving them money, and giving them control over whether and when to start families. For women, birth control isn’t a political or social issue – it’s basic health care and an economic concern.”
Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson issued a statement, saying: “Today is a great day for working Americans. The Supreme Court’s decision clears the way for millions of people to have the access to the affordable, high quality health care that had previously been denied...Minnesota’s union members worked hard to make this law a reality, and we are pleased the court affirmed its constitutionality. Now that this issue has been settled, we are hopeful our elected leaders will come together to craft policies that get middle class Americans back to work.”