Supporters of President Obama's health-care reform law were elated on June 28--and a bit surprised--by the Supreme Court's narrow decision upholding the landmark legislation.
But social and religious conservatives quickly reacted as if the 5-4 ruling in favor of the White House was a political boon for the November elections. The majority opinion said the law's mandate to buy health insurance is legal under Congress's power to raise taxes--a fighting word to social conservatives. Meanwhile, evangelicals and Catholic bishops vowed to battle the health-care law on what they say are its violations of religious liberty.
"You can take to the bank that the decision to uphold Obamacare will energize the Tea Party, evangelicals, and the broader Republican base like we haven't seen before. Yes, more than 2010," said David Brody, chief political correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network and author of a new book, The Teavangelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party Are Taking Back America.
Conservative Catholics could also be galvanized by the high court's decision. "If the Supreme Court decision lacks clarity, the Catholic response will be anything but ambiguous: the battle lines between the bishops and the Obama administration are now brighter than ever," said the Catholic League's William Donohue.
Matthew C. Harrison, president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said in a statement, "We will continue to stand with those who have filed suit in the many religious freedom cases pending against the birth control mandate."
But while there remain legal challenges to aspects of the health-care law--the Supreme Court ruling did not address the specific issue of the contraception mandate, for example--taking control of Congress and the White House seems like a more reliable strategy for those who want to overturn or undermine the health-care law.
"This decision may well energize conservative activists, including religious conservatives, because the ballot box is now the best way to change the healthcare law," said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
"Nearly all of the things conservatives disliked about the law are still in play, including the provision mandates," Green said. "And a new complaint can be added: the individual mandate is constitutional as a tax--so the law involves a broad-based tax increase. So the decision can be seen as a 'good thing' for conservatives and Republicans."
It can also be seen as a good thing for social conservatives trying to raise money. Within hours of the ruling, an array of groups were sending out promotional emails making highly questionable but also highly effective claims about "Obamacare."
A National Right to Life Victory Fund letter warned that health-care reform "can kill disabled and elderly persons just as assuredly as if it were an actual capsule of cyanide. …