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WASHINGTON - South Carolina's Republican lawmakers expressed deep disappointment with the Supreme Court's health-care ruling, but said voters will deliver the final verdict in November at the ballot box.
Rep. Jim Clyburn, the congressional delegation's only Democrat, hailed the 5-4 high court decision that Congress' power to levy taxes gives it the authority to require that all Americans obtain health insurance.
"I have said throughout this debate that this law is the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century," Clyburn said. "History will look kindly on this tremendous achievement."
Clyburn, of Columbia, played a major role in gaining House passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act as House whip, a post he relinquished last year after Republicans regained majority control of the chamber. He remains the No. 3 House Democrat.
Freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney, an Indian Land Republican, said he was "surprised and saddened" by the court decision, but he said it could end up hurting President Barack Obama.
"It's a major victory for him, but it doesn't help his election prospects," Mulvaney said. "In fact, I think it hurts his election prospects. It's going to be very difficult for him to look somebody in the face and say he never raised taxes."
Clyburn scoffed at House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's decision to set a July 11 vote to repeal the health-care law.
"It will go nowhere," Clyburn said. "I just think they ought to stop grandstanding."
The House has previously voted to repeal the law, but the Democratic-controlled Senate has defeated such bids.
In the current session of Congress, Obama would veto a repeal measure, and it would be almost impossible for Republicans to muster the two-thirds majority needed to overturn a presidential veto.
The Republicans' only realistic chance of repealing the health-care law would be to hold control of the House in the November election, regain control of the Senate and see presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney elected president.
Sen. Jim DeMint, a Greenville Republican who vowed three years ago to make the health-care measure Obama's "Waterloo," was even more defiant.
"This government takeover of health care remains as destructive, unsustainable and unconstitutional as it was the day it was passed, unread, by a since-fired congressional majority," DeMint said.
"Now as then, our first step toward real health-care reform and economic renewal remains Obamacare's full repeal, down to the last letter and punctuation mark," he said.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Seneca Republican, issued a dare to Democrats in Congress.
"To our Democratic colleagues, stand by your tax increase or stand with us to repeal and replace Obamacare," Graham said. "The problem for the American people is this is a massive tax increase at a time they can least afford it, and Obamacare will jeopardize the quality and accessibility of health care."
Graham said he'd feared "the broad power to tax could be used by the (Supreme) Court to justify Obamacare."
Graham, who was an attorney before joining Congress in 1995, was among the few lawmakers or commentators who predicted before Thursday's ruling that the court might use Congress' power to tax, instead of the Constitution's Commerce Clause, to uphold the health-insurance law.
"Obama could actually win that argument that the fine (if someone refuses to buy insurance) is really just a tax and we're going to tax you to create a centralized health care system," Graham told CNN in March.
Freshman Rep. Tim Scott, a North Charleston Republican, was more measured in his criticism.
"Obviously, I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court's decision," he said. "The president has said all along the individual mandate was not a tax, but it has been shown today as even more of a wolf in sheep's clothing."