By Molly K. Hooper - 06/05/12 11:14 PM EDT
House Republicans conceded on Tuesday that they will have a “mess” to deal with if the Supreme Court rules portions of the president’s healthcare law are unconstitutional.
All eyes on Capitol Hill are focused on the high court as lawmakers await the much anticipated ruling, which is expected by the end of the month.
Another possibility is that the court will rule the mandate that consumers buy insurance is unconstitutional, but that the mandate is “severable” from the rest of the law, which can then stand on its own.
Such a situation would leave many questions for Congress, which would have to decide how to pay for other reforms in the law without the mandate. Congress would also enter new battles over whether to repeal the law.
“Let’s take a hypothetical that the mandate’s not severable and the bill is thrown out — that’s one hypothetical. Or the court decides the mandate is unconstitutional but it is severable, then that’s a mess,” said Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.).
House GOP lawmakers voted to repeal the president’s healthcare law shortly after reclaiming the majority last January, but that legislation was dead on arrival in a Senate controlled by Democrats.
Since that time, they have passed a number of bills addressing portions of the law to bring down the cost of healthcare.
But parts of the law are popular, and Roe said it would be politically difficult for Republicans to move a replacement bill without working with Democrats.
“If we try to cram something through on the Republican side on a totally partisan basis, the public won’t accept it any more than they did this bill so we have to work together with the other side to pass commonsense reforms that do the job of helping lower healthcare costs,” Roe said.
Ardent conservatives who fought the healthcare law – they refer to as “ObamaCare” – want nothing more than to repeal it in its entirety.
But politically pragmatic Republicans have acknowledged that a handful of the provisions that took effect, including a measure that allows children to remain on their parents insurance until age 26 and a provision that forbids insurance companies from denying coverage for individuals with preexisting health conditions, are popular.
House GOP Policy Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) acknowledged to reporters Tuesday that “there are some things that have been instituted that folks have begun to rely on and make their family plans on.”
Oklahoma GOP freshman Rep. James Lankford said members of the class of 2010 were “pushed” during the election to repeal and reform the president’s healthcare law, but said the matter is now more complicated.
Still, he expressed a willingness to take action after a Supreme Court decision.
“So this ongoing conversation – there is an enthusiasm to solve the problem and we’re looking forward to an opportunity, depending on what happens with the Supreme Court, to start solving this mess,” Lankford said.