ATLANTA — Within minutes of the Supreme Court’s ruling this week to uphold President Obama’s signature health care reform, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens called on Congress to repeal the law.
“The highest court in the country let the American people down,” Deal said in a statement.
“While we recognize this is a huge setback for fiscal sanity and personal liberty, we are not giving up,” Deal added. “Georgians and the American people deserve high-quality, sustainable health care. Congress must now work steadfastly on repealing this law and replacing it with reforms that help taxpayers instead of hurt them.”
Later Thursday, Deal, a Republican, said he will delay until after the November election the implementation of the law, The Associated Press reported.
Deal’s sentiment wasn’t entirely surprising. President Obama hasn’t exactly found a group of advocates in the state’s legislature.
After Florida filed its lawsuit against the federal government in 2010, Georgia quickly joined its neighbor to the south. Then Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed independent counsel to represent the state when the attorney general, a Democrat, declined to join in the suit.
That same year, Georgia lawmakers even approved a bill prohibiting the mandatory participation in any healthcare system, a measure Perdue signed into law.
Current state law stipulates that “no law or rule or regulation shall compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system.” It also says that people “shall not be required to pay penalties or fines for paying directly for lawful health care services.”
But with the Supreme Court’s ruling, is there anything Georgia’s leaders can do to contest the law? Or is their only option convincing Congress to repeal it wholesale?
“Georgia maintains the right to appropriate state resources in the manner best suited for our citizens,” state Sen. Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, said in a statement. “We should ensure that no Georgia tax dollar is spent implementing this freedom destructing law.”
Rogers could not immediately be reached for comment Friday to expand on his statement.
After two years of vowing to fight the law and ensure that Georgians would not be forced to comply with it, many state officials may remain opposed, but their options are limited.
“You don’t have to enroll, you can just pay a tax instead of getting health insurance,” Lauren Kane, communications director for Olens, said in a Friday interview.
“We have no other legal options at this point now that the Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional,” she added.
As U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., admitted in an email to supporters, the only option is for Congress to repeal the law.
“A full repeal of this law is now our only option, but that can only happen if we elect more conservatives to the U.S. House, U.S. Senate, and Mitt Romney as the President of the United States,” Graves wrote, according to The Associated Press.
Now the question is: Can Republicans in Congress repeal the law? That remains to be seen, but no matter the outcome, Georgia Republicans will likely join in the fight to repeal the measure.