Democrats go on offense ahead of Supreme Court healthcare ruling

Democrats sought to take the offensive on healthcare Wednesday, a day before a landmark Supreme Court decision on President Obama's signature legislative achievement.

House Democrats said the high-court ruling would be a clear indication of whether the nation's highest court is partisan or impartial, even as they sought to raise campaign funds off the pending decision.

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"We'll find out this week if the Supreme Court is listening to the American people and following the U.S. Constitution," said Rep. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), vice chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, "or if it's becoming more and more what we've seen in the past: a partisan body no different from the Congress."

The ruling, Becerra added, will reveal "whether there are nine people in the Supreme Court who are going to try to do the bidding of special interests or who are actually listening to the needs of the American people guided by the Constitution of the United States."

Separately, the House Democrats' campaign arm on Wednesday sent an email to supporters asking for campaign funds. If the court strikes down Obama's law, "Democrats will need to redouble our efforts, fighting to ensure universal healthcare that's affordable and accessible to every American is a reality," the email said.  

It also warned that a decision against the law means "dangerous Tea Party extremists will go on a rampage."

The court is expected to rule Thursday on a series of lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Democrats' 2010 law — in particular, its requirement that most Americans purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty.

Democrats in the White House and Congress insist the law is constitutionally "ironclad," in the words of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). 

But the reaction from a number of the justices during oral arguments in March has led to widespread speculation that the court will shoot down at least a portion of the statute — a move that would leave other key provisions in question.

Some Democrats have long questioned the neutrality of the conservative-leaning Supreme Court. The concerns are rooted in the controversial ruling granting George W. Bush the presidency in 2000 and the 2010 Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on individual elections.

House Democratic leaders said Wednesday that a move to overturn the healthcare law would similarly call into question the court's impartiality.

Rep. John Larson (Conn.), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said it would be "illogical and blatantly political if the Supreme Court were to rule [against the law]."

"There's no question that the commerce of health[care] crosses state boundary lines," Larson added, referring to the Democrats' central legal defense of the individual insurance mandate.

Joining the Democratic leaders in the Capitol, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka blasted the current court for its "activist" agenda.

"What we have is several justices on the Supreme Court that, while they were being confirmed, talked about how they wouldn't be activist, [and instead] have become the most radical activist judges we've seen," Trumka said.

Trumka pointed to a recent court decision against another organized labor group, the Service Employees International Union — a case he said "wasn't even in front of them."

"That is radical activism by judges that they so aptly condemned," he said.

House Republicans, for their part, have already voted to repeal the healthcare law in its entirety. They have vowed to do so again if the Supreme Court leaves any part of the statute in place — a promise reiterated Wednesday by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

"We made it pretty clear, and I’ll make it clear one more time," Boehner said at a press conference in the Capitol. "If the court does not strike down the entire law, the House will move to repeal what’s left of it."

Becerra said the "worst outcome" would be a 5-4 decision, because "that will go, unfortunately, a long way [toward] confirming this growing belief in the gut of the American people that the Supreme Court no longer cares so much about the Constitution, it cares more about politics."

Becerra added, "We should all take some time tonight to pray a little to make sure the Supreme Court doesn't come out with another 5-4 decision which, once again, unmasks its political tendencies."

The Supreme Court ruling is expected to be released at 10 a.m. on Thursday.