POLL: Do you agree with the Supreme Court's ruling to uphold the health care law?
Tennessee legislators and party officials across the political spectrum unleashed polarized, predictable reactions after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled favorably on President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.
Now the president's friends and enemies in the Tennessee Valley and elsewhere will look ahead to the November election and its ramifications for Obama's central legislative achievement.
In solidly Republican Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia, most of the news releases flowing into local reporters' inboxes roared with anger over the individual mandate requiring nearly all Americans to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who once voted to confirm Chief Justice John Roberts, criticized Roberts' majority opinion<FEFF> that a penalty for not buying health insurance "may reasonably be characterized as a tax" and therefore something the Supreme Court has no authority to forbid.
"Congress should repeal the law and then proceed step by step to reduce the cost of health care so more Americans can afford to buy insurance," Alexander said in a statement.
The remaining five senators in Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia -- all Republicans -- agreed.
Democrats exulted in the 5-4 outcome, noting similarities between Obama's law and Mitt Romney's similar health care legislation as governor in Massachusetts.
"Most American lawyers aren't surprised by today's Supreme Court decision, nor am I," U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, a Nashville Democrat, said in a statement. "It turns out that Obamacare, Romneycare and Robertscare are the same thing -- and constitutional."
U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, a Republican who represents several North Georgia counties, described Thursday as "a dark day in our history." U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican physician from South Pittsburg, Tenn., called it "a sad day for health care."
Both men touted their largely symbolic 2011 House votes to repeal the bill, and 3rd District U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann vowed to "fight to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free market health care reforms which put patients first."
One of Fleischmann's Democratic challengers for the 3rd District, Chattanooga businessman Bill Taylor, said the Supreme Court's affirmation of the law does exactly that.
"The [Affordable Care Act] was created to stop the unfair advantage that insurance companies have gained over people's ability to afford health care," Taylor said. "This decision will help us move forward in creating a system of affordable, quality health care that is available to everyone."
U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., issued a one-sentence statement advocating repeal and replacement "with common sense reforms that our nation and its citizens can afford."
Republican officials said there was only one way to make that happen.
"Getting rid of Obama-Care is now in the hands of the American people and we can accomplish that by electing Mitt Romney president in November," Tennessee GOP Chairman Chris Devaney said in a prepared statement.
Tennessee Young Democrats President Sean Braisted shrugged off the politics, saying the health care overhaul was a positive reaction to America's most recent recession, which prohibited many young people from getting jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance.
"The 2010 Affordable Care Act allows for hundreds of thousands of young Americans to stay on their parents' health insurance throughout college and as they start on their own," Braisted said. "This provision alone has saved thousands of lives of people who previously could not have afforded care for chronic illnesses or emergencies."