By Pete Kasperowicz - 06/28/12 03:16 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Supreme Court's ruling on the 2010 healthcare law reveals that the individual mandate is constitutionally acceptable when defined as a tax, though Democrats tried to argue that it wasn't a tax to help get it passed.
"The president of the United States himself promised up and down that this bill was not a tax," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "This was one of the Democrats' top selling points, because they knew it would never have passed if they said it was a tax.
The Supreme Court specifically ruled that the individual mandate to buy health insurance or face a fine from the government was not defensible under the Commerce Clause, as the Obama administration argued.
"Construing the Commerce Clause to permit Congress to regulate individuals precisely because they are doing nothing would open a new and potentially vast domain to congressional authority," the court's decision said.
"Upholding the Affordable Care Act under the Commerce Clause would give Congress the same license to regulate what people do not do."
The court then assessed the Obama administration's secondary argument, which was that if it could not be upheld under the Commerce Clause, it should be upheld as a part of the government's power to tax.
"Such an analysis suggests that the shared responsibility payment may for constitutional purposes be considered a tax," the ruling said, adding that the fines could be seen as a valid tax against people who choose to go without health insurance.
McConnell's first reaction to the historic healthcare ruling matched that of other Republicans, who vowed to outperform Democrats in the November election and continue working toward repeal of the law.
"I can assure you of this: Republicans won't let up whatsoever in our determination to repeal this terrible law and replace it with the kind of reforms that will truly address the problems it was meant to solve," he said.
"There's only one way to truly fix ObamaCare, only one way, and that's a full repeal — a full repeal, that clears the way for common sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans' access to the care they need from the doctor they choose at a lower cost," McConnell added. "And that's precisely what Republicans are committed to doing."
"The court's ruling doesn't mark the end of the debate. It marks a fresh start on the road to repeal.
"The president has done nothing to address the problems of cost, care and access. We will."
— Updated at 11:47 a.m. to add details from the Supreme Court's ruling.