Obama Chief of Staff: Time to Get Over Debate
OMB Director Jack Lew talks about the 2012 budget, released Monday, February 14, 2011 in the White House briefing room. (Photo credit: Emily Schultze/CNN)
By Kevin Liptak, CNN
(CNN) — Jack Lew, the White House chief of staff, said Sunday the Supreme Court decision upholding President Barack Obama’s health care measure should put to rest the national debate over the law’s practicality.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Lew said the Affordable Care Act, which was signed into law in 2010, needs to be fully implemented before Americans assess its merit, and that detractors of the law, including Obama’s opponent in the 2012 presidential election, were using it to divide the country.
“This was a plan that Gov. Romney supported,” Lew said, “and it’s something that I would have thought he would be proud of.”
The national debate over the law, which has been ongoing since the law was implemented, can now end with the court’s ruling, Lew said.
“It’s time now to get over the debate and implement that law,” he told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley. “What the American people don’t want is, they don’t want to be taken back to the old divisive debate. They want to get on with it, and they want us to be focusing on economic growth and creating jobs.”
The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said the law’s individual mandate to obtain health insurance could stand under Congress’ power to levy taxes. Lew maintained that ruling should end all questions about the measure’s legality.
“I think one of the great things about this country is that we have a Supreme Court and when it rules, we have a final judgment,” Lew said. “So there’s not a question now on whether or not the law is constitutional. It is constitutional.”
He continued, “I think health care has been a divisive debate for many years. It’s a very personal issue for people. They understand that health care is a big part of their lives. And frankly they hear a political debate that makes it more, not less, divisive.”
Despite Lew’s proclamation that debate should now end on the law, Republicans this week signaled they were not retreating in their battle against the president’s plan. Romney, speaking soon after the court’s ruling was handed down, renewed his vow to repeal the law.
And House Republicans, who have seized on Roberts’ assertion the law could stand as a tax, scheduled a vote to repeal the law in early July.
Lew dismissed the tax argument Sunday, saying that Obama and his team were ready to take on Republicans who claim the law represents a tax hike.
“The law is clear. It’s called a penalty,” Lew said, saying the fine imposed on people who choose not to get health insurance would only affect 1% of Americans.
“Everyone who has insurance, everyone who chooses to get insurance, will not pay it,” Lew said. “What they are going to get is security, lower premiums, and better health care.”