Liberals in panic mode over health care law rejection

National Journal:
There's a reason liberals are freaking out about the Supreme Court this week.
If part or all of the health-care reform law is thrown out, a central goal of the progressive project will have been dealt a possibly fatal setback. The dream of universal health care -- pursued for decades, frustrated again and again -- that seemed finally to have come to fruition in 2009 will have been derailed before it could even be fully implemented. For liberals and their allies, it will be a crushing blow from which there is no easily foreseeable recovery.
 "It would be a particularly bitter pill to swallow to get [health-care reform] all the way through the legislative process and, because of the partisan leanings of five people who happen to be justices of the Supreme Court, not get universal health care," said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former Obama administration adviser who helped see the bill through Congress. 
Tanden does not believe the whole bill will be thrown out, but based on the questioning and debate in this week's oral arguments, she sees parts of the law, such as the insurance mandate, in unexpected peril from the court's conservative wing. 
If the entire law gets thrown out, she said, "I think my head would explode." But even if only the mandate is rejected, the fundamental achievement of the legislation would change, she said: "Without the mandate, I don't believe it is a universal health-care bill." 
For Republicans, a court decision invalidating part or all of Obamacare would be a powerful talking point, cited as a stinging rejection of the president's agenda and proof that Obama -- a former constitutional law professor -- doesn't understand or respect the Constitution, a cherished belief of the Tea Party. In policy terms, too, the president's central domestic accomplishment would suddenly cease to exist or else limp forward in badly maimed form. 
"If the whole thing goes down, I think it's pretty tough for the president," said Howard Dean, the physician and former Democratic National Committee chairman. "I think he's probably going to win reelection anyway, but does he want to start all over again?" On the heels of a court rejection, he said, "I don't think [health-care reform] could come back. Not the whole thing." (Dean, however, believes the mandate isn't necessary and could be removed from the law without consequence.) 
Opponents of the law agree: This is universal health care's Waterloo. 
The law was already despised by over half the voters and only approved of by about a third.  It is why Democrats lost big in 2010 and people have not grown more fond of the mess since then.  Many of what are perceived as its more popular provisions like guaranteeing coverage to people with existing conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents policy up to age 26 were key drivers in the rising cost of health care since the bill passed.


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