SD politicians split on partisan lines over Supreme Court ruling
South Dakota politicians reacted along party lines to the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act, also known as "Obamacare."
Former Sen. Tom Daschle, who was briefly nominated by President Obama to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services, is no longer in public office but has maintained a keen interest in the issue. Daschle has remained a loud voice on the issue, writing opinion pieces and a book on it, and continuing to advise Obama.
On Thursday, in an email to The Daily Republic, he said the decision was an "enormously positive step for health care in America."
"It is a critically important moment with extraordinary historical and practical ramifications," he said. "Our country is just beginning to meaningfully address the cost, access and quality challenges in health care today. This ruling provides the green light to full implementation of insurance, payment and delivery reform to effectively create a high performance, high value health care infrastructure with lower costs, higher quality and greater access."
In a statement, Sen. Tim Johnson hailed the court's ruling that almost all of the sweeping health-care reform law should stand.
"This is a huge win for South Dakotans and the nation. I have always believed health care reform was constitutional," said Johnson, D-S.D. "Critically, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate.
"From kids to seniors, health care reform has made a positive difference in the lives of tens of thousands of South Dakotans," he said.
Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., was unhappy with the ruling and would continue to work to overturn the law, he said in a teleconference with South Dakota reporters.
"The president has said repeatedly that the individual mandate is not a tax on the American people," Thune said. "That is something the Supreme Court clearly disagreed with. ... We've maintained it's a tax all along. The court just said what the administration has been trying to avoid saying."
He extended his argument to say President Obama broke his promise not to raise taxes on middle-income Americans.
"According to the Congressional Budget Office, 75 percent of the individual mandate tax in 2016 is going to be paid by taxpayers making less than $120,000 a year," Thune said. "That's clearly a violation of the promise the president made regarding taxes."
Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., went straight for the populist argument during her teleconference, saying that it is the Supreme Court's job to interpret and rule on laws while it is Congress' job to carry out the people's will.
"I still stand with the majority of the American people who oppose this government takeover of health care," Noem told reporters in a conference call. "I have voted more than 30 times to repeal or dismantle this law. It has increased uncertainty in America, and many still don't even know what's in it."
She argued that the law has resulted in increased cost and has been a lag on job creation, as businesses are leery of requirements to provide health insurance. Noem also said the law's provisions to move more people onto Medicare would hurt South Dakota, where she said one in three doctors already turn away Medicare patients due to low payment rates.
She said she would not support a simple repeal but rather she seeks a new set of reforms that would rely more on incentives rather than mandates.
"A government-controlled healthcare system is not the answer, but we also can't go back," Noem said. "If changes are to be made, it's our job to do what people in America and across South Dakota want us to do, and that's repeal it and put in reforms that actually make a difference for them and their families."
Matt Varilek, the Democratic candidate for the state's lone House seat, struck a middling tone in a statement and in an email to The Daily Republic, saying he continued to support the law but wanted to see costs linked to it reduced.
"Now that the uncertainty over the Supreme Court decision is behind us, we can all focus once again on strengthening the economy and on further efforts to improve health coverage, care, and cost-containment," Varilek said.
"While the Affordable Care Act is not perfect, it is a step forward for millions of young people who now have insurance coverage, for people whom big insurance prefer to exclude because of pre-existing conditions, and seniors struggling with high prescription drug costs, just to name a few," he said. "I believe members of Congress should now put partisanship aside and come together to bring down costs, and that's where my focus will be."
Gov. Dennis Daugaard expressed "dismay" with the ruling in a statement and said he hoped it would be tossed out by a new president and Congress.
"I am disappointed with the court's decision, but I am proud of the effort put forth by South Dakota and the other states involved in the lawsuit," said Daugaard, a Republican. "It is up to state leaders to stand up for the rights of our citizens when we believe the federal government steps beyond the bounds of the Constitution."
"I am still convinced that the president's health law is bad policy and I will continue to fight to protect South Dakota citizens from its harmful effects," he said.
Ben Nesselhuf, chairman of the South Dakota Democratic Party, was pleased by the decision, he said in an online statement.
"America just took one step toward affordable, accessible health care thanks to a ruling from the Supreme Court to uphold President Obama's affordable care act," Nesselhuf said. "Thanks to everyone who worked so hard over so many years to make this a reality."
Tim Rave, chairman of the South Dakota Republican Party, joined with his fellow GOP members to bash the decision in a press release and in a phone interview.
"With the Supreme Court inadvisably upholding the president's healthcare law, it's more important than ever that South Dakota sends principled leaders to Washington who will work to repeal and replace Obamacare," Rave said.
"Not only do we need to defeat Sen. Tim Johnson in 2014, who provided the 60th and necessary vote for Obamacare, but we need to ensure that Kristi Noem defeats Matt Varilek, an abashed advocate for the healthcare law that gives Washington too much control over our healthcare system," he said.