Both sides poised for healthcare ruling

Lawmakers and interest groups don’t know how the Supreme Court will rule on President Obama’s healthcare law, but they’re ready to respond as soon as the decision is released.

The court is expected to issue its decision shortly after 10 a.m. Thursday. Once the ruling is announced, the courthouse steps and the Capitol, just across the street, will become circuses of spin. 

House Republicans will likely hold multiple press conferences throughout the day. The party leadership will likely want to address the ruling, especially if the court strikes down all or part of the law. 

The GOP’s Doctors’ Caucus is also planning a news conference Thursday afternoon. And Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) reportedly reserved space outside the Capitol to hold her own event.

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President Obama is scheduled to be in meetings at the White House all day Thursday. A White House spokesman would not say whether he will have any public comments in the wake of the court’s ruling on his signature domestic achievement.

A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign did not respond to a question about Romney’s schedule Thursday. 

The healthcare case has greater short-term political implications than any case since Bush v. Gore, which decided the 2000 presidential election. 

A victory at the Supreme Court would be an enormous boon to either side, yet pundits and strategists from both parties have also suggested that the losing side might gain a political upper hand by using the decision to rally its base.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), however, warned his caucus last week not to “spike the football” if the court strikes down the healthcare law. Excessive celebration could detract from the party’s focus on the economy, he said.

Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), a physician, said focusing on healthcare as an issue doesn’t have to cross the line into cheering the demise of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“The reason this isn’t a cause for celebration is that the status quo is unacceptable,” Price told The Hill in an interview.

Even if the court upholds the ACA, Republican leaders plan to press ahead with another vote to repeal the law.

Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said at a press conference Tuesday that if the court leaves any of the law standing, Republicans will try to repeal it and replace it with “step-by-step reforms” of their own.

A Senate Republican leadership aide would not provide specifics about the party’s plans following Thursday’s decision or say whether Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has delivered the same message as Boehner about “spiking the football.”

Democrats, meanwhile, aren’t especially thrilled that the decision will come just before the weeklong July 4 recess — meaning healthcare will dominate the headlines following Thursday’s ruling and will then be back in the news once Congress returns and House Republicans move on to their repeal vote.

“If we were here, then we could then move rapidly to get something on the agenda, something in the hopper, to respond to this in a way that the American people would understand that we’re going to move ahead on this,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Harkin and his staff have been working on contingency plans in case the court strikes all or part of the law, but they will have to hold on to those options until after the July 4 holiday.

“As it is, we have these 10 days off,” he said. “I’m just wondering if the politically motivated Supreme Court didn’t plan it that way.”

Democrats will still get in on the initial reaction, however. 

Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), the leaders of the House Progressive Caucus, are planning a rally just outside the Supreme Court immediately following the decision. 

The plaza outside the court has been slowly filling with protesters and interested onlookers as the healthcare ruling draws nearer. Although protests Thursday aren’t expected to rival the sea of activism that surrounded the court during oral arguments, protesters had amassed a respectable presence Monday amid the crush of TV crews camped out in front of the court.

— Bernie Becker contributed to this report.