The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
PARTIES SPLIT OVER NEXT STEP
BY CHELYEN DAVIS
Most Virginia Democrats celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday upholding most of the federal health care law, saying it’s now time to move forward with implementing the bill.
Republicans largely decried the decision and urged voters to support GOP candidates in November so Congress will vote to repeal it.
“If nothing else, today’s health care decision underscores the importance of this election,” House Majority leader Rep. Eric Cantor, R–7th District, said in a statement. “The people of America are going to have a choice to make in November and clearly it’s a choice that will bear upon the direction of this country as far as our health care is concerned.”
Former Gov. Tim Kaine, who is running for U.S. Senate, was among the Democrats hailing the ruling as a victory for most of Virginia’s estimated 1.1 million uninsured residents. While he called the law “an important first step in curbing discriminatory insurance company practices and increasing access to health care,” he added that “more needs to be done to bring down costs.”
“Our government, businesses, and citizens cannot continue to spend more than any other nation on health care while getting second-rate results.”
Cantor said House Republicans will push to approve a bill repealing the law, although that isn’t likely to go far in the Democrat-led Senate.
Gov. Bob McDonnell told reporters that while the state will comply with the law, he’ll be working to elect Republican Mitt Romney president in November.
“I’m going to make sure I do everything I can to fight against these policies in the political realm,” McDonnell said in a statement released by his office. “This now will go up to the top of the charts as the most critical issue.” … we will do what we think is right for the citizens of Virginia, but realizing at the same time that I will do everything I can to change the leadership of this country, to help win Virginia so these kind of gargantuan tax increases and expansion of government … doesn’t stand.”
The health care law would have required Virginia to pay millions of dollars to expand Medicaid eligibility. But the court ruled that Congress can’t compel states to do so by withholding federal funds, which essentially means Virginia doesn’t have to expand its Medicaid program if it doesn’t want to.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who had filed a lawsuit against the health care law, said he doubts Virginia lawmakers will want to add millions of dollars to a Medicaid program that has been driving state budget increases in recent years.
McDonnell hinted at the same thing, decrying the millions of dollars it would cost Virginia to expand Medicaid.
While most Republicans were disappointed with the ruling, Cuccinelli saw a silver lining. He said even though Republicans lost on policy, he thinks the ruling strengthens states’ rights.
“It is a mixed result today, but on principles and on the law, we won,” Cuccinelli told reporters at a press conference in Richmond. “ We have succeeded in preserving individual liberty, even if we have not won the policy battles.”
Cuccinelli said the Medicaid portion of the ruling puts new restrictions on Congress’ powers to force states into federal programs.
“This argument sits there as a check on federal spending power,” he said.
Cuccinelli also was surprised by, but not opposed to, the court’s interpretation of the financial penalty for individuals who don’t buy health insurance. The court said it’s a tax, and Cuccinelli thinks that will prevent politicians in the future from enacting legislation that has financial repercussions that could be called a tax.
“There’ll be no playing of this ‘this is a tax, this is not a tax’ scheme,” Cuccinelli said. “If the health care bill were deemed a tax (originally), it would never have passed.”
Cuccinelli expects the ruling to have major political ramifications this fall.
Typically, he said, a major court decision like this provides more motivation to the side that lost.
“On balance, it’s going to help those who are more conservative,” Cuccinelli said.
Republican George Allen, who is running for U.S. Senate, said he was disappointed in the ruling. But he said it shows why voters should choose him over Kaine.
“While disappointed in the Supreme Court’s decision on President Obama’s health care law, I believe it reinforces what is truly at stake during this pivotal election,” Allen said in a statement.
“This November, the American people have an opportunity to choose new leadership in Washington who will listen to their voices and repeal this costly, harmful government health care law. My opponent believes this health care law is a ‘great achievement,’ but I believe it’s an infringement on individual liberty and free enterprise.”
Kaine said thousands of Virginians have already benefited from various provisions in the law that increase coverage or access to health care. He said during Allen’s previous tenure in the Senate, the average family’s insurance premium doubled and more than 12 million more Americans were uninsured.
“Clearly, inaction was not a solution, and neither are continued calls for repeal. Instead, we must work together to strengthen this existing program and improve cost controls,” he said.
Other Democrats celebrated the court’s ruling and called on McDonnell to call a special legislative session to create a health care exchange, which is part of the health care law.
McDonnell said it’s too early to determine whether that’s necessary. He said his administration has been working to lay the foundation for creating health care exchanges, even though he thinks they are a bad idea.
“If we have to comply with this monstrous mandate, we’ll find a way to do it, and do it in a way that is least bureaucratic and least expensive and least cumbersome for the people of Virginia,” McDonnell said. “I think even a state exchange is a bad idea. it’s more bureaucracy, it’s more barriers of entry into the market, it’s more government telling people what kind of insurance policies they can have.”
Chelyen Davis: 540/368-5028