GOP: 'Sad day for liberty in America'

Republicans on Thursday called the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold most of President Obama’s healthcare law a stinging disappointment and a “rallying cry” to win an electoral mandate to repeal it.

“It’s a sad day for liberty in America,” Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), a conservative member of the Republican “doctor’s caucus” said as he walked into a meeting of House Republicans in the basement of the Capitol minutes after the ruling came down.

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A somber stream of Republicans followed Broun into the meeting, held to plot the conference’s response to the landmark decision.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has pledged that House Republicans would vote to repeal whatever was left of the law after the Supreme Court ruling, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced on Thursday the vote would be held July 11. The House Republican majority already voted to repeal the law in its entirety as one of its first acts in 2011.

Approaching reporters, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) gave the news an emphatic thumbs-down. “It’s really bad, really bad,” he said.

Other Republicans said that while they “vehemently disagreed” with the ruling, it would provide clarity both for their attack on the law and in the upcoming presidential election.

"Now the decision is really in the hands of the American people,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee. “If they want to change the presidency and the Senate the way they did the House, then the law will change."

Republicans said the ruling confirmed their political argument from the outset of the healthcare debate — that the law was a tax on the American people.

“Now we can say it’s a tax,” added freshman Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho).

Of Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., who provided the decisive vote to uphold the law, Labrador said: “I’m disappointed, but he’s still a great man.”

—Bernie Becker, Erik Wasson and Ben Geman contributed.