Virginia’s U.S. Senate candidates split along the same lines as their fellow partisans in Washington on Thursday over the Supreme Court’s landmark health care ruling. Democrat Timothy M. Kaine praised the law, and Republican fellow former governor George Allen criticized the decision.
The health-care law — which was upheld by the high court in a 5-4 ruling that said the measure’s individual mandate was permissible if considered a tax -- has been a central point of debate in the rivals’ contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D). Kaine has a close relationship with President Obama and was serving as Democratic National Committee chairman when Congress passed the measure. It could be an even bigger flashpoint in the race now, since the ultimate fate of the law may now be decided now by which party controls the Senate.
Allen and Kaine both appeared Thursday morning at a forum sponsored by the Northern Virginia Technology Council in Reston. Allen was standing with a group of attendees and reporters when news of the ruling broke.
“I think the issue will continue,” Allen said. “I’m disappointed only in that they have to use all sorts of judicial creativity to call a ‘mandate’ a ‘tax.’ Of course when they were trying to pass this, they said it wasn’t a tax. The point is, the American people are against this. ... So that’s why this election will matter, because unlike Tim Kaine, who thinks it’s a great achievement, I want to be the deciding vote to repeal it and then replace it.”
As a senator, Allen voted in 2005 to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts, the author of the decision, and was effusive in praising Roberts at the time.
Kaine made little mention of the health act ruling itself in a statement issued shortly after the decision. But he praised the law as “an important first step in curbing discriminatory insurance company practices and increasing access to health care.” He added that “more needs to be done to bring down costs.”
Kaine then turned his fire on Allen.
“My opponent regularly calls for a full repeal of this law, despite the positive results it’s already delivering for Virginia,” Kaine said, noting that average insurance premiums climbed steadily when Allen was in the Senate. “Clearly, inaction was not a solution, and neither are continued calls for repeal.”