What to expect from Obama, Romney after Supreme Court health care ruling

AP

(CBS News) No one -- aside from the high court's nine justices -- can presume to know how the Supreme Court will rule on the Affordable Care Act on Thursday. Nor can anyone predict exactly how President Obama or his Republican challenger Mitt Romney will respond. The two politicians, however, may have shown their cards a bit in recent days.

Mr. Obama has given a forceful defense of the law, taking a tone that suggests he won't flinch if the court strikes down all or parts of it.

"I believe it's the right thing to do. I believe health reform was the right thing to do," Mr. Obama said of the law at a Tuesday night fundraiser in Miami. "I believe it was right to make sure that over 3 million young people can stay on their parent's health insurance plan. I believe it was right to provide more discounts for seniors on their prescription drugs. I believe it was right to make sure that everybody in this country gets decent health care and is not bankrupt when they get sick. That's what I believe."

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(CBS News and CBSNews.com will have a special report when the ruling is issued, which is expected at around 10 a.m. EDT.)

At an Orlando conference of Hispanic leaders last week, Mr. Obama stressed his beliefs over and over, as if repeating himself would make his audience believers as well. "After a century of trying, we finally passed reform that will make health care affordable and available for every American," he said. "That was the right thing to do. That was the right thing to do. That was the right thing to do."

The president is unlikely to back down from his support for the entire package, even though polls show the controversial health care overhaul remains unpopular. Earlier this year, he said it would be "unprecedented" for the court to strike it down.

If the court strikes down parts of the bill, the most significant part likely to go would be the individual mandate -- the requirement for all Americans to purchase insurance. Many people -- including the president -- have described the mandate as the heart of the bill, so throwing it out would be a significant blow to the president. Still, the sweeping health care package includes plenty of other provisions of substance.

The administration in recent days has been methodically reminding the public of those provisions and their benefits -- through blog posts, live events with leaders like Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and releasing new data. "President Obama signed the health care law - the Affordable Care Act - into law on March 23, 2010 and it's already making a positive difference in the lives of millions of Americans," Jeanne Lambrew, deputy assistant to the president for health policy, wrote on the White House blog Wednesday.

Lambrew laid out some of the ways the law has already benefitted some, such as enabling 3.1 million young adults to get health insurance through their parents' plans and helping 5.3 million people with Medicare cover the cost of the "prescription drug donut hole."

Even if the court throws out the entire law, the administration could boast of making a positive difference: Some major insurers recently announced that regardless of the court's decision, they will continue to offer some consumer protections and services that the law mandated.

If the court throws out the whole law, Mitt Romney would predictably have an entirely different take. The Republican presidential candidate previewed his response at two campaign events this week.

"If the court strikes it down, they will be doing some of my work for me," Romney said in Virginia on Wednesday. "I will still need to replace it."

On Tuesday, Romney said that Mr. Obama will have "wasted" his first three years in office if the court strikes down the law. "As you know, the Supreme Court is going to be dealing with whether or not Obamacare is constitutional. If it is not - if Obamacare is not deemed constitutional -- then the first three and a half years of this president's term would have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people," he said.

And if the court upholds it, Romney said Wednesday, that doesn't change the fact that the law was bad policy. On top of that, the GOP candidate charged that the law wasn't just bad policy but a "moral failure," given the focus it stole from the economy. "His policies were not focused on creating jobs," Romney said of the president. "They were focused on implementing his liberal agenda."

Romney on Tuesday repeated his oft-made pledge "get rid of" the law on the first day of his presidency if it is upheld by the Court. He has said he'll give every state waivers from the law.

The GOP candidate will have backup from his counterparts in Congress, who are prepared to keep their messaging consistent.

"We've said all year that 2012 will be a referendum on President Obama's policies, which have hurt the economy and made things worse," House Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with House Republicans, a source in the meeting told CBS News. "The president's health care law is Exhibit 'A.' Americans know it's driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Regardless of how the Court rules, the law is a huge issue for the American people, and it has to be repealed, completely."

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