Mayor Rahm Emanuel today heralded the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the core of President Barack Obama’s national health care overhaul as a positive “historic” development, even as he conceded that he warned Obama about the political consequences of taking on the issue.
Emanuel was Obama’s first chief of staff, and he told the president that trying to expand health care coverage had eluded presidents of both parties for decades and would detract from achieving other goals.
"I gave him my advice. I told him many times (about) the political cost of doing this," Emanuel said. "And thank God for the rest of the country, he didn't listen to me."
Emanuel made it clear that after the president made up his mind, he helped secure sufficient votes in the House of Representatives, where Emanuel served before going to work for the president.
“Because of the president’s courage and not listening about politics,” young adults who return home, people with pre-existing conditions and others who have chronic illnesses that have racked up major bills will still have insurance, the mayor said.
“Because of the president’s courage and not listening to politics, seniors will continue to get help now, and greater help, on their prescription drug,” he added.
“That is the political leadership, that is the political courage, that the president showed. And this is in my view an historic day, and the president took the leadership and the courage that is necessary to bend the needle of history and, I view, economic fairness,” Emanuel said.
And after saying he wanted to discuss the policy, not the politics, Emanuel took a shot at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney:
“If Mitt Romney — I don’t know which Mitt Romney would have showed up, the Massachusetts governor or the new one — but if Mitt Romney would have been in the Oval Office a different set of decisions would have been made, and they have bottom line consequences in people’s lives.”
Emanuel also was asked about the fact that Republican appointee Chief JusticeJohn G. Roberts tipped the balance on the narrow decision, which upheld the constitutionality of a federal mandate requiring everyone to have insurance or pay a penalty.
“It’s rich with irony,” Emanuel said.
Political historians would note another bit of irony: while a U.S. senator, Obama voted against Roberts' confirmation to the high court. Obama praised Roberts' qualifications, but questioned his philosophy.
Also today, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle “applauded” the Supreme Court decision, calling it “historic” and saying it could help ensure tens of millions of dollars in new funding for the county’s financially struggling public health care system.
The county is currently seeking federal permission for early Medicaid enrollment of about 100,000 current, non-paying Health and Hospitals System patients. If the court had struck down the law, that effort would have been thwarted.Hdardick@tribune.com