Area politicians toe party lines in reactions to ruling

By Peter H. Milliken

and David Skolnick


Local and state reaction to the Supreme Court’s landmark 5-4 decision upholding the constitutionality of the core provisions of President Barack Obama’s health care law, including the individual insurance requirement, was split along party lines.

Democrats hailed Thursday’s decision as a win for the president and the American people while Republicans saw the opposite.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, said the court decision “is a victory for the American people. With the mandate upheld and the [bill] left intact, we as a nation can get down to the business of providing medical coverage for all Americans.”

Besides expecting a “tea party temper tantrum” about the decision, Ryan said he expects “in the next week or so” for the rhetoric over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, informally called Obamacare, primarily by its critics, to “die back down.”

“This will be a tag line in everybody’s speech” but will no longer be a “front-burner” issue for long, Ryan said.

Marisha Agana, a Howland pediatrician and Ryan’s Republican challenger, said, “Congressional leaders should unite in an attempt to revise the bill to make it sustainable.

“As it stands, we know that this health care bill is wrought with hidden costs to the taxpayers, small-business owners, consumers and patients and health care professionals,” she said. “A more comprehensive medical liability reform” needs to be added to the law.

“This is a sad day for America. The courts have now enabled the federal government to take even more freedom and liberty away from the American people. This is why elections matter and we have to make Obama a one-term president,” said Mark Munroe, Mahoning County Republican Party chairman.

By affirming the constitutionality of the law, the court “has preserved a legislative achievement unmatched since the creation of Medicare in 1965,” said David Betras, the Mahoning County Democratic Party chairman.

Betras added that he isn’t surprised that Republicans, including Mitt Romney, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, are vowing to repeal the law.

“The fact is that their threats to repeal ... are as empty as their legislative agendas and their refusal to take part in the now-successful effort to substantially improve the health and quality of life of all Americans will be judged harshly by the American people and by history,” he said.

“This is a victory for all of America. Any attempt by Republicans to discredit or destroy this opportunity for real health reform will be met and decided at the next election,” added state Rep. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-60th, who led a failed legislative attempt to bring universal health care to Ohio 22 years ago.

Youngstown Mayor Charles Sammarone, a Democrat, said he knows people who are positively impacted by the law, primarily those with children who are under age 26. The law allows those children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans.

U.S. Rep. Steven C. LaTourette of Bainbridge, R-14th, said the court’s decision was “disappointing” but “is an example of what the Founding Fathers envisioned as three independent branches of government. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled the bill is not unconstitutional, it is for the nation’s elected leadership to determine if it is good policy.”

U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly of Butler, Pa., R-3rd, said he shares “the outrage of the majority of Americans who want this law repealed.” Kelly added that voters “will have their chance to speak” on Nov. 6, Election Day.

U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and his Republican opponent, Josh Mandel, also weighed in on the court’s decision.

“Supreme Court justices appointed by presidents of both parties [Thursday] made an independent legal judgment to uphold the health law,” Brown said. “I hope today’s ruling will put an end to the partisan bickering so that we can continue our focus on jobs and improving the economy.”

Mandel, Ohio’s treasurer, blasted Brown, saying he “staked his 38-year political career on casting the deciding vote for what will likely go down as the biggest tax increase in history. This is not just any old tax increase. It is a tax increase that falls squarely upon the shoulders of the poor, the middle class and small businesses that can least afford to pay it.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, a Republican, said, “While the court has deemed the law constitutional as a tax on the American people, it is still flawed policy that is unaffordable for our families, our small businesses and our government.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine expressed disappointment with the top court decision and was especially partisan in his rhetoric. Ohio was one of 26 states that joined the National Federation of Independent Business in challenging the federal health care law.

“The American people have a chance to do what the Supreme Court did not do by voting this fall for Gov. Mitt Romney and for a Republican Congress that will repeal Obamacare,” DeWine said.

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