Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling that the individual mandate in President Obama’s health care law could be a defining issue not only in the race for president, but for the governor of Washington. But depending on how you look at it, the ruling could hurt or help both candidates.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Rob McKenna was one of 26 attorneys general who challenged the Affordable Care Act in court. Specifically, the challenge was against the provision that uninsured people be required to buy insurance or face a penalty.
The court ruled that Congress lacks the power under the Constitution's commerce clause to put the mandate in place, but that the government does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance.
“We argued that the Constitution prevents Congress from taking over your personal spending decisions about health care or anything else,” said McKenna. “If Congress can put a tax in place that taxes you if you don’t have insurance, can they tax you if you’re overweight?”
McKenna added that Congress shouldn’t try to repeal the law now that it has been ruled constitutional. McKenna said one of the Republican criticisms of the bill was that it crammed so many policies into one measure -- some the GOP supports and some the party doesn't.
"To completely blow it up means that we're, in a sense, committing the same sin but in reverse," McKenna said.
McKenna will likely face Democrat Jay Inslee in November for governor. Inslee was a member of Congress when the law was passed in 2010.
"The Supreme Court upheld this law despite enormous political pressure by Republican Attorneys General from around the country who tried to make this a partisan, political issue," said Inslee in a press release. "It is my hope that Republicans do not see today’s ruling as an opportunity for further partisan bickering. Instead, we need both parties to finally come together and make this law work for the American people."
In a KING 5 News poll this week, 64 percent of Washington residents agreed with McKenna that they did not like the individual mandate. But there were other provisions people did like, such as no lifetime coverage limits and that those with pre-existing conditions could not be denied coverage.
The fact that the court upheld the law may work to McKenna’s advantage because had those other provisions been struck down, it would have given political ammunition to Democrats.
So, both sides gain something from this. Democrats criticize McKenna for challenging the law. McKenna will still get credit from his Republican base just for joining the suit.
It still remains to be seen how much weight McKenna’s unsuccessful challenge will resonate with voters in November.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.