House GOP leaders prepare for high court health care decision

Story highlights

  • Two top House Republicans will lead a rapid-response team after the decision
  • House GOP leaders are holding a closed-door meeting with members Thursday morning
  • "There will be no spiking of the ball," Boehner says, if the law is struck down

House Republican leaders know that immediately after the Supreme Court rules on the health care law Thursday, they'll need to answer questions about what happens next on Capitol Hill -- and they're ready.

At Wednesday's weekly meeting with rank-and-file members, House Speaker John Boehner announced that he and GOP Conference Chairman Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, have designated two top House Republicans to lead a rapid-response team, according to two GOP sources familiar with the discussion. Policy Committee Chairman Tom Price, R-Georgia, a physician, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the top Republican woman in the House, will be the lead messengers, talking to television and radio outlets after news breaks on the ruling. McMorris Rodgers is also the chief liaison between GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign and House Republicans.

Basics: Health care reform issues

According to one source in the room, Boehner told his members, "We've said all year that 2012 will be a referendum on President Obama's policies, which have hurt the economy and made things worse. The president's health care law is Exhibit 'A.'''

After the meeting, Hensarling underlined that message to reporters, and previewed the next step in the House.

"There are profound constitutional reasons that the president's health care (law) ought to be struck down. But there are also profound economic reasons that the House has to repeal it. And if the Supreme Court doesn't see fit to rule it unconstitutional, House Republicans will move to repeal it lock, stock, and barrel," he vowed.

Price and McMorris Rodgers will be at the Supreme Court Thursday to hear the justices' ruling.

To keep their members on message, House GOP leaders have scheduled a special closed-door meeting with all House Republicans for Thursday morning in the basement of the Capitol to discuss the decision and next steps. Last week, Boehner distributed a memo to House Republicans warning them to keep their focus on the economy and avoid the appearance of celebrating if the Supreme Court strikes down all or part of the law.

"There will be no spiking of the ball," he said.

After the morning session, top leaders are expected to talk to reporters, but GOP aides say other than repeating their pledge to hold a vote to repeal any provisions left standing, Boehner and other leaders do not plan to outline any other details. Specific action on health care proposals would come after Republicans weigh the impact of the Supreme Court's ruling, aides say.

At Wednesday's meeting to plan their response, GOP Whip Kevin McCarthy and Hensarling went over the talking points they're urging members to emphasize Thursday. One theme they plan to hit on is the impact of the health care law on women, a key demographic they know could play a decisive role in the fall election. McMorris Rodgers has been urging fellow Republicans to stress that 80% of health care decisions are made by women and she argues that they want less, not more government involvement in those decisions.

A timeline of health care reform