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Next Obamacare Battle? The 2016 Election (Video)

Graham, R-S.C., speaks with reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
Graham said Obamacare will be the key domestic issue. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold subsidies for people to purchase health insurance forestalls the need for Republicans in Congress to take action on the law, pushing the issue as a substantive matter into the 2016 election cycle.

The candidates are embracing the shift.

Sen. Ted Cruz said Republicans should “absolutely” use the budget reconciliation process to repeal the Affordable Care Act, despite the certainty President Barack Obama would veto such a thing.

“Because we promised the American people that and it’s important that we actually honor the commitments we made to the voters who elected us,” he said. (The Club for Growth made a similar call.)

He went further, challenging other presidential hopefuls to make sure the 2016 election is a referendum on the health care law.

Cruz Slams ‘Lawless’ Supreme Court After Obamacare Ruling

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Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina used the ruling to challenge Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“If you’re running for the House, you’re running for the Senate or you’re running for president, here is what this Supreme Court ruling means: if the public wants to continue Obamacare, which I think would be a huge mistake, vote Democrat. If you want to repeal and replace Obamacare with something better for you and your family, bipartisan, vote Republican,” Graham said on the Senate floor. “Hillary Clinton, the most likely Democratic nominee, will make Obamacare her own. Whoever the Republican party may nominate, the one thing I can assure you is that they will repeal and replace Obamacare with something better.”

For her part, Clinton went after the GOP, saying the rival party has “waged a sustained attack” against the promise to make health insurance affordable and available nationwide.

“They’ve voted more than 50 times to repeal or dismantle the law, roll back coverage for millions of Americans, and let insurers write their own rules again – all without proposing any viable alternatives. Now that the Supreme Court has once again re-affirmed the ACA as the law of the land, it’s time for the Republican attacks to end. It’s time to move on,” she said. “Republicans should stop trying to tear down the law and start working across party lines to build on these successes.”

Ahead of the ruling, the Democratic National Committee had circulated a memo outlining potential pitfalls for 2016 GOP candidates in the event the decision had gone the other way, while remaining optimistic that the Obama administration would prevail — as it did.

A decision in their favor would have required Republicans to take action in response to the Court, and GOP lawmakers on both sides of the Capitol had worked on developing a proposal to address the loss of subsidies for Americans getting insurance through federally-operated Obamacare exchanges, but there was no conclusion ahead of the decision.

Several Republican senators had plans of their own, including Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, who wanted people held harmless through the 2017 election either way.

“The court’s decision cements a system costing millions of Americans the health plans they chose and liked and access to doctors they knew and trusted. The Supreme Court is sustaining higher health care costs for patients and taxpayers, a law that makes it costlier for employers to hire and harder for workers to keep full-time jobs,” Johnson said in a statement.

Finance Chairman Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, lamented the Supreme Court’s decision, but said his focus would be on a broader overhaul of the health care law.

“Moving forward, we will continue to seek input on our legislative proposal … and use every opportunity available to give both states and patients more freedom and flexibility. We will continue to work toward real reform that lowers costs and helps Americans access high quality healthcare,” Hatch said. “By putting patients first, we will end the negative consequences of Obamacare and implement policy that is good medicine for American families.”

McConnell, Reid React to Obamacare Ruling

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Freshman Senator: Pay for Obamacare Replacement With … Obamacare

Supreme Court Upholds Law

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