A landmark Supreme Court ruling upheld President Obama’s historic health care law, a stunning decision that will define the 2012 White House race.
The 5-4 decision made Thursday was unexpected from a court led by conservatives, was a dramatic victory for Obama, who staked much of his term and his promise to bring change — on passing a complex legislative solution to the nation’s staggering health care woes.
The law’s controversial heart — the individual mandate requiring the overwhelming majority of Americans to have health insurance or face a financial penalty — was deemed a tax and held to be constitutional.
In the decision’s greatest surprise, the tiebreaking vote came from Chief Justice John Roberts, a conservative jurist appointed by President George W. Bush.
“Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness,” Roberts wrote.
In a televised speech afterward, Obama was measured in discussing the law’s importance.
“This is a victory for people all over the country whose lives are more secure because of this law,” Obama said, acknowledging that his signature domestic achievement is loathed in many quarters.
“It should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics,” he added.
“I did it because it was good for the country,” he continued, pivoting to call on Capitol Hill lawmakers to focus on the crucial election-year issue of righting the struggling economy.
The Supreme Court’s decision, predictably, was immediately denounced by the Republican who wants Obama’s job. “Obamacare was bad policy yesterday, it’s bad policy today,” said presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
He charged that the bill, the main parts of which go into effect in 2014, “raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion.”
Later, senior Obama administration officials told reporters that the vast majority of Americans would see their taxes go down after the full law is implemented.
Obamacare victory, sent hospital stocks rising and was a rallying cry for both campaigns.
Disappointed conservatives started pouring money into Romney’s campaign, which said it raised more than $2.5 million by Thursday evening. Romney, despite overseeing similar health care legislation while he was governor of Massachusetts, reiterated his pledge to repeal the entire bill on his first day in office, if elected.