A year ago, June 28, the United States Supreme Court justices issued the ruling of a lifetime: Obamacare, the national health reform law, stood constitutional on a 5-4 vote.
The decision has changed the landscape of American politics.
As the news cycle spins on the anniversary of the decision, politicos and partisans will surely celebrate or bemoan the measure, depending on ideological persuasions.
Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, however, won’t make a peep about the one-year mark.
Otter’s press secretary, Jon Hanian, told IdahoReporter.com earlier this week that the governor will not release a statement either celebrating or decrying the anniversary. “No,” he said via email in a one-word response when asked if Idahoans might hear from their governor Friday.
Shortly after Congress passed the law in March 2010, Otter stood in rebellion, proclaiming it unconstitutional and slamming Congress for piling loads more debt on future Idahoans.
“All this will do is keep states and the marketplace from making health care more affordable and accessible while imposing a legacy of untold debt on our children and grandchildren,” he warned on March 21, 2010.
Yet, months later, Otter proclaimed support of one of the law’s key features: the health exchange, essentially an Amazon.com for health insurance.
Obamacare presented governors across the land with this choice: Set up a state-based program or the feds will do it for you. Some 26 states chose the latter option.
In January 2012, Otter floated exchange support at a legislative preview, telling reporters that he would pursue what he believed to be the best path for Idaho. That year, lawmakers rejected that plan, never hearing legislation to adopt the exchange.
In December 2012, Otter went all-in, announcing his full support of a state-based exchange. Otter justified the support in citing the 10th Amendment’s call that those “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
In his State of the State message on Jan. 7, Otter told lawmakers: “Rejecting the opportunity to assert ourselves will result in an unresponsive, one-size-fits-all federal exchange wreaking havoc on some of America’s most reasonable costs of coverage,” adding “At its core, this is a matter of state’s rights.”
During the 2013 session, lawmakers agreed to adopt the exchange in an epic, divisive battle in which all state Democrat legislators except one and enough Republicans in the Senate and the House voted for a state exchange in approving Otter’s recommendation.
Detractors continue to be boisterous in their distaste for Otter’s decision to set up the exchange and what it now might lead to, state expansion of the Medicaid program.
State Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, a firm critic of Obamacare, shrinks at the idea of expanding Medicaid and reports that exchange implementation—which must be complete in fewer than 100 days—isn’t going smoothly.
“I don’t think that’s anything to cheer about,” she told IdahoReporter.com.
Just months before exchange gates open nationwide, people nationwide aren’t cheering for Obamacare. The RealClearPolitics.com opinion poll average reports that 52 percent of Americans aren’t fans of the law, nearing a high-water mark of disapproval.
Locally, a number of activists seek to hang the health care issue firmly around the governor’s neck, starting a Facebook group named “Boycott Ottercare.”
The group’s enlistees include Tea Party Boise director Chad Inman, state Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, and GOP insider Rod Beck.
A more vocal voice in the group, former Republican House candidate Ken De Vries of Benewah County, smacks Otter for not properly defending liberty.
“He has decided that kowtowing to an unconstitutional federal mandate is better than defending the liberty of Idahoans,” De Vries wrote to IdahoReporter.com. “As with most political leaders these days, political expediency trumps common sense, financial prudence and constitutional principles.”