Healthcare ruling's winners and losers

There is a slew of political winners and losers as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold President Obama’s healthcare law.

Democrats received a huge, and largely unexpected, boost from the conservative-leaning court, which is headed by Chief Justice John Roberts.

The 5-4 decision has significantly changed the electoral landscape, though it remains to be seen whether the decision will help Democrats or Republicans at the polls this November.

The following is a rundown of The Hill’s winners and losers.


President Obama. The president used an enormous amount of political capital to pass healthcare reform, a legislative effort that spanned more than a year and caused other priorities to be shelved. The White House, however, failed to come up with an effective message to sell the law, which remains unpopular. Regardless, Obama went toe to toe with GOP critics of the law — and won. He gambled by agreeing to the high court review before the election instead of trying to hit the procedural brakes that could have pushed the case until 2013. Republicans acknowledge that this is a win for Obama, but say it will help get Mitt Romney in the White House.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The healthcare law is as much Pelosi’s legacy as it is Obama’s. Without her, the law wouldn’t have made it to the president’s desk. She played a leading role in convincing skeptical Democrats to approve the controversial legislation, pushing it over the top. There is some chatter in Washington that this will be Pelosi’s last term in Congress. The California Democrat had long said that climate change is her flagship issue. While it’s highly unlikely she’ll pass such an energy bill in her career, the court’s decision represents a vindication for the former Speaker.

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidTo Build Back Better, we need a tax system where everyone pays their fair share Democrats say Biden must get more involved in budget fight Biden looks to climate to sell economic agenda MORE (D-Nev.). Reid had to keep every Senate Democrat in line to pass healthcare reform, an unenviable task. But relying on his strong relationship with his caucus members, Reid did it. Reid is working to retain his majority this fall, and some political handicappers say Democrats are better positioned to do that than they were in 2011.

Solicitor General Donald Verrilli. The media pounced on Verrilli after what appeared to be a shaky performance during oral arguments. Liberals and conservative activists suggested Verrilli choked, but the solicitor general got the last laugh, winning the biggest case of his career.

SCOTUSblog. While cable networks were getting things wrong in the initial minutes after the ruling was released, the SCOTUSblog was setting things straight. The popular blog, headed by Tom Goldstein, was extremely popular this week. Goldstein, in one of many television appearances this week, said his website attracted record traffic on Thursday.

Ted Kennedy’s legacy. After the ruling was announced, Pelosi called Vicki Kennedy, Ted Kennedy’s widow. "I knew that when he left us he would go to heaven and help pass the bill," Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. "And now he can rest in peace.” Kennedy fought throughout his career for healthcare reform. He died of brain cancer in August 2009, months before the law was enacted. Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) won Kennedy’s seat in early 2010, which nearly destroyed Democratic hopes of passing the bill.

AARP. The powerful consumer group put its considerable weight behind the healthcare law, sparking protests from many of its members. Without AARP’s backing, the law likely would not have cleared Congress.

GOP fundraising. Romney’s campaign said it raised $4.3 million on Thursday, while the Obama campaign declined to reveal details. The decision could be a boon for Romney and GOP congressional campaign committees. After all, now only Congress and the president can eradicate “ObamaCare.”


Congressional Republicans. GOP lawmakers appeared to have everything in their favor: popular opinion; a strong legal argument; and a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerLobbying world A new kind of hero? Last week's emotional TV may be a sign GOP up in arms over Cheney, Kinzinger MORE (R-Ohio) recently warned his colleagues not to “spike the ball” should the law be tossed. But instead of scoring a touchdown, Republicans felt like the ball was fumbled at the 1-yard line. GOP legislators remain committed to repealing the law, but Democrats have a new talking point: The Roberts court upheld it.

Tea Party. The ruling has Tea Party activists shaking their heads. The right’s quest for eradicating the health overhaul continues, but Thursday’s decision represented a huge setback.

Television networks. A few minutes after the ruling was released, CNN sent an email news alert stating that the Supreme Court had deemed the individual mandate unconstitutional. The network quickly corrected the error, but it caused significant confusion at the White House and in the halls of Congress. Fox News also briefly reported that the mandate had been struck down.

Industry groups. The National Federation of Independent Business and other industry groups opposed the law and sought its repeal. But on Thursday, Democrats and union officials were the ones celebrating.

Former President George W. Bush. The 43rd president nominated Roberts, who was unanimously supported by Senate Republicans in 2005. The right was irritated by Bush throughout his two terms on a variety of issues, most notably the increase in government spending under his watch. The healthcare ruling will likely go down as one of the most important Supreme Court decisions of the century, and a Bush nominee was the swing vote in deeming the law constitutional. Meanwhile, the expected swing vote — Justice Anthony Kennedy — joined the dissent. Kennedy was nominated by President Reagan, who is revered by conservatives.