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JOHN KING, USA

Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Reform; Eric Holder Held in Contempt of Congress

Aired June 28, 2012 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I'm John King.

Tonight, a dramatic day of breaking news here in Washington -- a divided Supreme Court hands President Obama a major victory and Mitt Romney a new campaign rallying cry. The health care law stands. And as we dissect the politics and the law, we will also break down the changes you face as that law is now fully implemented.

History in the House, a vote to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress. Republicans say Eric Holder is stonewalling a critical investigation. The attorney general calls it an election- year stunt.

And tonight's "Moment You Missed" completes a full circle. We go back to day one and a voice worth rehearing on this important day.

Let's begin with the latest on the dramatic developments just moments ago on Capitol Hill, where the House of Representatives voted to cite Attorney General Eric Holder, the nation's highest ranking law enforcement official, for contempt of Congress.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote, the yeas are 255, the nays are 67, one member voting present. The resolution is agreed to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Hear that low nay count, 67. That's because about 100 Democratic lawmakers walked out just as the voting started, among them, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

During this afternoon's heated debate, she called that contempt vote heinous.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Just when you think you have seen it all, just when you think they couldn't possibly go any further over the edge, they come up with something like this. It's stunning.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Majority Republicans approved both criminal and civil contempt citations against the attorney general, Eric Holder, because he won't share documents concerning a now discredited program called Fast and Furious.

That program was supposed to trace drug weapons smuggling but ended up helping Mexico drug cartels acquire guns from the United States. At first, Holder told Congress the Justice Department didn't know anything about authorizing those guns to go across the border. Turns out that wasn't the case and one of those guns turned up at the scene of a murdered U.S. Border Patrol agent, Brian Terry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA: We are here because when we asked legitimate questions about Brian Terry's murder, about Fast and Furious, we were lied to. We were lied to repeatedly and over a 10- month period.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The White House and the attorney general himself condemned today's vote.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today's vote is the regrettable culmination of what became a misguided and politically motivated investigation during an election year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: More on what that contempt citation means and how the case goes forward in just a moment.

But now to today's historic day at the Supreme Court and the next chapter in the health care debate. In its 5-4 decision this morning, the Supreme Court let stand the Affordable Care Act of 2001, more commonly known in our political lexicon known as Obamacare. The ruling ends a grueling legal battle, but not the contentious political debate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It should be pretty clear by now that I didn't do this because it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is a time of choice for the American people. Our mission is clear. If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we are going to have to replace President Obama.

PELOSI: We're very, very excited about this day. It's historic. It ranks right up there when they passed Social Security and Medicare and now being upheld by five justices of the Supreme Court.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN (R), MINNESOTA: There will be no hope of economic recovery between now and the election. We have exhausted now our legal solutions to be able to rid the nation of Obamacare. Now we have to look for a political solution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Let's go inside the court's decision and assess the political fallout with Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Borger and from Chicago tonight David Gergen.

Jeffrey, I want to start with you. You are in the room when the justices announced this decision and the chief justice says, no, you can't do it under Commerce Clause, that the mandate would be unconstitutional under Commerce Clause, but he did a reason that it is constitutional.

I want to read from it. The chief justice in the majority decision writes: "The Affordable Care Act requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax. Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

He is not saying I love this law, I even like this law, but he's saying you can have this law.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: He was doing what he said he was going to do in his confirmation hearings. He was saying I am not going to be an activist. I am not here to pass judgment on whether if I were a congressman I would have voted for or against it.

He said is this law permissible under the Constitution? What was so flabbergasting about the opinion today was that the core of the debate had been about whether that Commerce Clause permitted Congress to pass this. That's what most of the attention was on, and he began his opinion from the bench by saying the Commerce Clause does not allow the Congress to pass this.

But then, in a stunning, stunning development, it sure stunned me, he said the taxing power, which was a relatively minor part of the legal argument in this case, allowed Congress to do it. And he completely joined the four liberals on the court in upholding the law.

KING: Let's show our viewers the split here. You have in the majority of the 5-4 the chief justice appointed by a Republican president, George W. Bush, and then with the four Democratic appointees, Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

And to the right, literally to the right, the four justices who were on the dissent side, Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Anthony Kennedy.

David Gergen, it is Anthony Kennedy everybody thought might be the swing vote here. In the end John Roberts starts to build a legacy for the Roberts court.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It was. We were watching the wrong guy.

Kennedy joined a fairly blistering dissent. And I think all of us were surprised that Roberts played this role. There's a quality about Roberts in effect reaching for an argument that he thought would uphold it. Larry Tribe, the Harvard constitutional scholar, and someone who had backed Obamacare, argued some time ago that he thought Roberts would do this because he wanted to protect the legacy of the court.

Had Roberts come down on the other side, joining the conservative justices, there would have been a cry from the mainstream media and from many others on the left that the court was entirely polarized, that it was entirely a partisan decision. While this decision has angered and frustrated a lot on the right, it may help the court in the long run.

KING: And, Gloria, the question now is the law will be implemented. The court has spoken. Republicans say they will still try to block it.

Eric Cantor, the House majority leader, listen to this. A lot of people think this one will come down to the election 130 days from now, but the House Republicans say they will try even earlier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ERIC CANTOR (R-VA), HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: When we return the week of July 9, I have scheduled a vote for total repeal of the Obamacare bill to occur on Wednesday, July 11.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: I assume they have a majority in the House. But the Democrats control the Senate. The president has the veto pen, even if by some miracle you get through the Senate. That is a stunt, if you will. It's an important stunt for a campaign.

(CROSSTALK)

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is a showboat, and it's being done to galvanize Republicans, to make the divisions in the Congress clear, to raise the stakes in this presidential election, not only for the presidential race but also for the congressional races.

I think what this really does for Mitt Romney and for Republicans is brings the enthusiasm to their ranks that Mitt Romney may not have been able to garner before. So, ironically, even though he was the governor of Massachusetts, which enacted a health care law with a mandate, he is now the standard bearer for repealing a health care law, legislatively, with a mandate.

KING: There are many, many ironies on this day. But I want to go back to 2005 when a young Senator Barack Obama was explaining to the United States Senate and country why he was going to vote no on the nomination of a certain John Roberts to go to the Supreme Court. The president said that in 95 percent of the cases on the court, they're pretty easy calls, you look at the precedent and you make the call. He said in those 5 percent, he said that's like the last mile of the marathon, those are the tougher cases where it is not just the law, it is your heart.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OBAMA: That last mile can only be determined on the basis of one's deepest values, one's core concerns, one's broader perspective on how the world works and the depth and breadth of one's empathy.

It is my personal estimation that he has far more often used his formidable skills on behalf of the strong, in opposition to the weak.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: David Gergen, Chief Justice Roberts today was the deciding factor in upholding the signature achievement of first term of the Obama presidency. What does the president of the United States say the next time he bumps into the chief justice he voted against?

GERGEN: Well, he should not say thank you, but he said, I respect what you did on the court.

I don't think that John Roberts uses the frame at all that President Obama used about what distinguishes a good justice. Instead, to go back to Jeffrey Toobin's point, it's what Roberts said during his confirmation hearings, that is, rather than being an activist player on the field, a justice should be an umpire, and he showed a certain kind of umpire-like quality, restrained, if you would, that I don't think had much to do with empathy or favoring the strong over the weak.

TOOBIN: I don't want to underestimate the significance of today. It is enormous, but let's not turn John Roberts into some kind of liberal.

He has voted with the conservatives on Citizens United, on race cases, on all sorts of cases about keeping individual plaintiffs from going to court. He will be with the conservatives most of the time. What made today so extraordinary...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: It's more about restraint in the role of the court than left or right?

(CROSSTALK)

BORGER: Made it clear today he didn't like health care reform. He is not a fan of it. And he ruled in the narrowest way that he possibly could by saying a mandate is a tax.

TOOBIN: He did. And there's no doubt about it.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: Citizens United was also about invalidating an act of Congress and they did invalidate that act of Congress.

(CROSSTALK)

TOOBIN: This is more exception than the rule.

GERGEN: But the point is that going into today, there was the widespread view that Roberts was the leading ideologue on the court in the conservative group.

And I think that cannot be thrown at him now after this is over. It does seems to me that at least he has earned the place to say he tries to decide more on the merits, and he came down in a way which many conservatives sharply, sharply disagree with him on.

KING: David, Jeff, Gloria, stand by. They will stay with us to continue the conversation.

Still to come here, what the health care ruling means for you and a closer look at the provisions in the bill yet to be implemented.

But, next, in contempt of Congress -- what it means when the House sanctions the nation's highest ranking law enforcement official.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: It's a historic day here in our nation's capital, not just because the Supreme Court upheld President Obama's health care act. More on that monumental decision in a moment.

But just a short time ago, the Republican-led House voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for failing to hand over documents related to Fast and Furious, and that's a botched drug trafficking sting program.

This is a first. Final vote, 239 to 67. You might say where are the rest of the members? And that nay column, it's pretty low. That's because many Democrats -- you see them right there -- walked out of the chamber in protest -- they feel the same way Eric Holder does.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Today's vote may make for good political theater in the minds of some, but it is at base both a crass effort and a grave disservice to the American people. They expect and they deserve far more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Want to bring back in senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and chief political analyst Gloria Borger and our senior political analyst David Gergen. Jeffrey, from a legal standpoint, the House has now found him in contempt. They send a criminal citation to the Justice Department, which is run by the attorney general of the United States, essentially saying investigate this to see if not only if he is in contempt of us but if he has done anything criminally wrong. Where does this go?

TOOBIN: It probably -- at best, it goes to court. Look, this is an embarrassment for Eric Holder, but that's all it is. Nothing will happen to him. This might get tied up in court. But if it even winds up in court, it will take months to resolve itself, and as you have pointed out, it's 131 days to the election.

This is designed to embarrass him, which it does, but there will be no formal legal consequences.

KING: Unprecedented, David Gergen. You have advised four U.S. presidents. A member of Cabinet has now been found in contempt of Congress. Normally when there's this threat, sometimes they get up to the last second. But in 99 out of 100 cases, they find some way to negotiate a resolution. What does this signal to you?

GERGEN: It is more than an embarrassment for Eric Holder. It is embarrassment for the political system in Washington yet once again.

There's a reason this is the first time ever a sitting attorney general has been cited for contempt or voted on for contempt, and that is because in the past, reason has prevailed and people have found when they have been in these difficult situations -- there have been a lot of searches for documents in the past, and on a regular basis, people have found ways to work it out.

The fact that these two sides -- there's legitimate need on the part of Congress to exercise scrutiny here and that's part of their oversight responsibility. At the same time, there are maybe documents involved that have legitimate executive privilege, but you can work these things out. I just think this is sort of crazy.

KING: Let's listen to a little bit more of what the attorney general said, because normally people try to be careful, especially someone that's the highest ranking law enforcement. They try not to use much political language, but...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOLDER: Others however have devoted their time and their attention to making reckless charges, unsupported by fact, and to advancing truly absurd, truly absurd conspiracy theories.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Not a happy man.

BORGER: He's mad, and I think he has a right to be because the Republicans going into this knew that it wasn't going to go anywhere, as Jeff was just saying. There's one legal precedent on this and it's from 1984, written by a Republican in the Reagan administration, none over than Ted Olson, and that precedent says that the U.S. attorney is not required to refer a congressional contempt citation to a grand jury or otherwise pursue legal action. So going in, Republicans knew this isn't going anywhere, so it is a sideshow.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And so the administration says we have given you thousands of pages of documents, we don't want to give you thousands more, they're protected or they're irrelevant. That's the administration's argument.

The Republicans say in one of the first documents you gave us, you lied. And the Justice Department did pull back that letter. So you can understand the mistrust, on the one hand, and then you also understand President Bush invoked executive privilege in similar confrontations with the Congress as well.

When do the reasonable adults go into a room and figure this out?

TOOBIN: That's what has usually happened historically. But I think this is a wonderful test case of the way politics has degenerated in Washington.

And when you have -- the House of Representatives in particular is Ground Zero for the distrust and distaste that these parties have for each other, and then you get things like this.

BORGER: And coming on the day of health care reform, which is such a monumental decision for people in the country, looking at the games that are being played on the House floor, it doesn't look good.

KING: David Gergen, Jeffrey Toobin, Gloria Borger, appreciate your help tonight.

And here's tonight's "Truth" -- there's now just one way to stop Obamacare. We will remind you what it is in just a few moments.

But, next, firefighters in Colorado get at least a little cooperation from the weather.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back.

(BREAK)

KING: Now that the Supreme Court says President Obama's health care law is constitutional, it is important to take a closer look at just how you will be affected. Stay with us for that.

We will also consider the political fallout of this afternoon's House vote holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This half-hour: Five Supreme Court justices decide President Obama's health care law can stand. We will look at what it means on the campaign trail and what it means for your future visits to the doctor's office.

Plus, on day one of this program, health care reform was the big story. And we talk to the widow of the late Senator Edward Kennedy. We will go back in time to hear her thoughts on this day when the Supreme Court said that law is constitutional.

Now that the Supreme Court has given the green light to the Obama health care law, its impact on your life will grow. Many provisions are already in place, discounts for Medicare prescription drugs, for example, children being allowed to stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, and free preventive care for services for mammograms.

But here's what down the road, increased Medicaid payments for primary care physicians, the creation of new state health insurance exchanges, the implementation of the individual mandate, and a prohibition on insurance companies from denying any insurance because of preexisting conditions.

Let's discuss the road ahead with Melody Barnes. She was President Obama's domestic policy adviser. And Tevi Troy, a health care adviser to the Romney campaign and a former top official at the Department of Health and Human Services.

Melody, I want to start with you. Republicans, most of them anyway, don't like this decision, but they do say at least the Supreme Court called the mandate a tax and the penalty a tax. Take us through how this plays out. And I just want to tell folks out there here is what happens.

When the mandate kicks in, in 2014, if an individual doesn't buy insurance, initially, $95 or 1 percent of their taxable income would be the penalty or the court says a tax -- 2015, that goes up to $325 or 2 percent of your taxable income, by 2016, $695 or 2.5 percent of your taxable income, that money to go into a pool to pay for health care if you don't buy insurance.

The courts says it is a tax. What say you?

MELODY BARNES, FORMER OBAMA DOMESTIC POLICY ADVISOR: Well, first of all, I know the Republicans that said that they don't like this provision of the law, that they don't like this law at all.

But I have to say I think today is a great day for all Americans. You know, I think about people like my friend who grabbed me because she couldn't believe that her young daughter, who was born with a pre- existing condition was actually going to get health care.

My assistant, who e-mailed me this afternoon, who's just out of college for a few years, he said, "Thank you. This means in a tough economy, I can have health care." So that's what today is for all Americans.

And I think the other thing -- important thing to remember is this is going to bring down costs for all Americans. But at the same time, it ensures that those who can afford health care, that those who are able to partake in the system, and who did partake in the system, will never be affected by the individual mandate and the concerns that the Republicans are addressing. It's about 1 percent of Americans who are actually going to be affected by that. And in fact, this is a bipartisan provision that even Governor Romney supported when he was in Massachusetts.

So all of the fire and brimstone and all the dire predictions I don't quite understand. These are bipartisan suggestions that we took into the Affordable Care Act and got passed by Congress and has been upheld by the Supreme Court today.

KING: Tevi, you hear Melody say this can be implemented easily. It will only effect a small percentage of Americans. So you see, if you read some of the statements coming out from Republicans today, talk about this new Internal Revenue Service monster out there. Are they overstating the impact here?

TEVI TROY, ROMNEY HEALTH CARE POLICY ADVISOR: I strongly agree with Melody that Republicans don't like it, but it's not just Republicans. It's Democrats, as well. It's -- or many Democrats, as well. It is an unpopular law. A lot of the polls suggest that it's very unpopular. And it was passed in a unipartisan way, meaning only Democratic votes were for it, but you had Republican votes against it and some Democratic votes against it.

So it's not a popular law. There's a lot of provisions that are problematic, including cutting Medicare and not using it to shore up Medicare payments at all in the long-term, including raising taxes.

And what the Supreme Court did today, while they kept the policy in place, they also said that there is a limiting principle on the Commerce Clause, and you just can't impose mandates willy-nilly.

KING: Melody, another thing that was central to the bill is expanding access through expanding the Medicaid program. The court had a nuanced take on that I want to read.

What it said is, yes, you can leave this in place, but it's an important "but." The court said this: "Nothing in our opinion precludes Congress from offering funds under the Affordable Care Act to expand the availability of health care and requiring that states accepting such funds comply with the conditions on their use. What Congress is not free to do is to penalize states that choose not to participate in that new program by taking away their existing Medicaid funding."

So wow will that play out? Some states say, "We'll do this." They get money. What happens in the states where maybe a governor says, "No, I don't want to do that. I won't take your money"?

BARNES: Well, what we know and contrary to what Tevi was saying, is that we've got governors all over the country and states that are moving forward with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

And I hope that today tells everyone it's time to stop the bickering. It's time to stop stirring the pot. This has been upheld by three different portions of the government: the executive, the courts, and the legislature. And it's time to move forward.

What we also know is that this is an important provision. We expect and we're very confident that states will move forward with the Medicaid provisions. We're talking about federal assistance for people who are ill. Otherwise, the states are going to have to deal with this on their own. Otherwise, we're going to have a situation where you've got families, you've got small business owners and others who are saying, "Hey, these people are in dire need of health care. We need these resources. Why not work with the federal government to get those resources into our states, as opposed to continuing to try and repeal a piece of legislation that pieces of it all Americans like, and as this comes online, we know that more Americans will appreciate the Affordable Care Act.

KING: Tevi, what is it about the Medicaid provisions that might cause some governor to opt out, which would cost them a considerable amount of money?

TROY: Well, it could cost them a considerable amount of money, but in the long-term, they are afraid of being left holding the bag. The Affordable Care Act expands Medicare by 16 -- Medicaid by 16 million people, and governors are concerned that down the road they're going to have to pay for it.

I also think that the Supreme Court decision has put this strictly in the political realm, and it makes this election, to some degree, a referendum on health care. Last time we had that in 2010, I don't think it worked out so well for the Democrats. They lost control of the House, and they lost a bunch of seats in the Senate.

KING: Our thanks to Melody Barnes and Tevi Troy for that discussion.

Coming up, will the Supreme court ruling energize Obama care opponents and perhaps turn the tide of the presidential race?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Every election has consequences. But this one felt bigger than most even before today's Supreme Court ruling that elevated it even more. Listen to this from Mitt Romney.

He says, "Help us. Help us defeat Obama care. Help us defeat the liberal agenda that makes government too big, too intrusive, and is killing jobs across this great country."

Now, it's true, many conservatives still don't consider Mitt Romney the best messenger on health care. But here's a bigger "Truth." He's the last best hope for Obama-care opponents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) ROMNEY: What the court did not do on its last day in session I will do on my first day, if elected president of the United States, and that is I will act to repeal Obama care.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The Supreme Court's 5-4 decision this morning ended any conservative hope that the high court would block the law. And even if Republicans kept the House and took control of the Senate in November, a second Obama term would mean a veto of any repeal effort.

Yes, elections have consequences, and your vote in 131 days will settle the repeal debate.

Here to talk truth tonight, "The New Yorker's" Washington correspondent and CNN contributor Ryan Lizza; Republican strategist and CNN political contributor Ana Navarro; and Democratic strategist and CNN political contributor Donna Brazile. So contributor, contributor, contributor.

Let's start with the very basics here. I know the policy is done. How do the politics play out? And I want to read -- this is from Erick Erickson, one -- another contributor, editor in chief of RedState.com. He says, "The all-or-nothing repeal has always been better ground for the GOP and now John Roberts has forced everyone onto that ground, and he probably just handed Mitt Romney the White House."

A lot of conservatives are grumbling about John Roberts. Erick Erickson making the case, you know never mind, let's have an election.

ANA NAVARRO, GOP STRATEGIST/CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, and I think Erick Erickson is completely right. If this leads to a replica of 2010 when the health-care law was first litigated within the American public, it's not good news for Democrats. 2010 led to 52 Democrats losing in Congress and Nancy Pelosi losing the gavel in Congress.

So I think today, John, the Supreme Court did what, frankly, neither Mitt Romney nor Barack Obama had been wholly able to do for themselves, really energize and unite their bases.

KING: You're smirking, I don't know what the right word is. You're ready to commit. But the last time there was an election, health care wasn't the only issue in 2010, but it was one of the big issues.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST/CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, we know midterm elections are a lot different than presidential years, and if it energizes those on the right that come out, fine. It will also energize those on the left to come out and protect the gains we've made.

Fifty-four million Americans have already -- with private health insurance already received some of the benefits of this new law, and it is now the law of the land. I think we should focus on how it helps ordinary Americans, especially those with pre-existing conditions. Young people still want to remain on their parents' account, and senior citizens who need resources to help pay for their, you know, life-saving drugs.

So I think the Republicans will find ways to make this something for their base to be happy about, but I think a lot of progressives are also happy, as well.

KING: How does it fit into the narrative, the campaign? I assume myself in a couple of weeks, if not sooner, we're going to be back talking about jobs, jobs, and jobs. This will be a subset. But am I wrong?

RYAN LIZZA, "NEW YORKER" CORRESPONDENT/CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Something seems to have changed today. You know, this whole campaign we've been talking about two strategies. Obama wants this to be a choice. He wants this to be a big ideological election, and he wants to smoke out Romney on his -- what he would actually do, talk about things like the Ryan plan. He wants Romney to get specific because he thinks that's a better terrain for him.

Romney, meanwhile, has said, "You know what? This is going to -- I just want to be the default candidate. I want the focus on Obama, focus on his bad record on the economy. I want it to be a referendum."

Today was the first day where I heard Republican leaders saying, "You know what? This is going to be a big, bold ideological choice," and I don't know how that plays. Does that change the Romney strategy a little bit? Does it become more of a polarized ideological election and make Romney's life a little bit more difficult?

I mean, the early indications are that this is absolutely energizing conservatives. They are donating money. So I don't know. We don't know how these things -- these things go. And, you know, the choice-referendum thing seems to have been scrambled today.

KING: There are a lot of ironies in this decision. One of them is throughout the health-care debate, which was very contentious, as we all remember. The Democrats said, no, this is not a tax, this is not a tax, this is not a tax.

The chief justice of the United States, the guy who, with delicious irony, Barack Obama voted against, sides with the liberal justices and says the only reason this can stand is it's become a tax.

Let's go back in time. Here's President Obama. I believe this is George Stephanopoulos interview in 2009, the president saying this is not a tax.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase. What it's saying is that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you, any more than the fact that right now everybody in America just about has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The chief justice, who says this law can go into effect -- that's the guy the president should send a thank-you note to -- says it is a tax. Is that debate over?

BRAZILE: First of all, I don't think he should send a thank-you note, because this is the right thing to do for the country. I know we like to get into partisanship. She's wearing her red. I'm not wearing my blue tonight.

But the truth of the matter is, John, is that Mitt Romney, who fathered that individual mandate provisions of the so-called Obama care law also have a videotape saying that this is an assessment for those who can afford to have health insurance, to get health insurance.

So whether you want to call it fine, a tax, or a penalty or none of the above, truth is, is that this will get us closer to making sure that every American has affordable health care in this country.

KING: The Republicans today are seizing on "The court has done something we don't like, but at least the court has proven the argument we were making back during the debate, that this is a huge tax plan; more big government, more taxes." That's an old Republican playbook, but sometimes it works.

NAVARRO: Well, Donna is right. This has been a moral victory and a legal victory for Barack Obama, and the question will remain is it going to be a political victory?

Now what could be short-term gain could be very well long-term pain. There's no doubt that this has helped Mitt Romney, because it really erases a lot of what he did in Massachusetts. We're no longer talking about Romney care. He is now the messenger.

KING: You say -- you say that now. Donna just made a point that Governor Romney, as governor, supported the individual mandate, and the Democratic group got a hold of old tape back in 2006. They're spreading it around. So here it is. And I'm wondering maybe this will come up in the campaign down the road.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROMNEY: With regards to the mandate, the individual responsibility program, which I proposed, I was very pleased to see that the compromise from the two houses includes the personal responsibility principle. That is essential for bringing health-care costs down for everyone and getting everybody the health insurance they deserve and need.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, he makes the distinction, Ryan, "Fine, yes. That was the right thing for my state. I was a Republican governor. I had to work with Democrats. I'm not saying the whole country."

But is -- this is what Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich were trying to get at in the primary, saying that if health care becomes an issue, and today it did, that he's not the right messenger. Does what he did in Massachusetts matter?

LIZZA: Yes. Look, what Obama said in that last clip after the Supreme Court basically said, "No. We disagree on that." Even Roberts said that under the Commerce Clause you can't do this. Right? So Roberts drew a bright line, right? He bought the broccoli argument, right? He brought the argument that if government can mandate health care, they can mandate anything else.

So that's -- you know, that's a victory for conservatives who a lot of legal scholars thought were crazy to make that argument.

And Romney now has, I think, a stronger case to say that, you know, "What I did at the state level was OK, but if you put that at the federal level, you have Commerce Clause issues."

Where I think he gets into trouble is when Republicans today are saying the Obama mandate is this tax. Well, it's very fair for Democrats to come back and say, "If it's a tax at the federal level, what you did in Massachusetts is a tax." I think that argument is going to be hard for Romney to make.

KING: I'm going to -- interesting when these two guys debate on this.

When a big thing happens like this, everybody reacts. We live in the world of social media. A lot of people do it on Twitter. Best advice, I would say, sometimes put it down, take a deep breath.

Patrick Gaspard used to be the White House political director. Now he's the DNC executive director. I'm going to show you one of his tweets. I'm going to read just part of it. He said, "It's constitutional, word begins with a 'b,' ends in an 's'." I think that's the word that Barbara Bush once said rhymes with "rich," I think or Geraldine Ferraro back in the day.

He also said that another one that was even more controversial. Mike Pence, according to Politico, a Republican congressman who's running for governor, walked into a meeting and was so mad, he compared this day to 9/11. A lot of people say, take a deep breath.

BRAZILE: Well, you know, as a self-described Twitter follower and lover, I try to take a deep breath. But look, people say things, type things that they regret.

Patrick was a little bit excited and emotional, perhaps. This really was a great moral victory for the country. And when I thought about it today, I thought about the late Ted Kennedy and all of the work, all of the effort. So thank you, Ted Kennedy. Wherever he is, watching us, God bless him.

KING: What's your point? NAVARRO: That's a great way to spin it from what Patrick Gaspard said.

KING: What is your personal -- what's your personal theory on how many times do you count to ten before you start tweeting when you're emotional?

NAVARRO: Well, you know, I'm Hispanic, so I'm always emotional. I don't get -- I don't get to count to ten. I go on one. But I would tell you look, before people used to say stupid things, now they tweet stupid things.

John, my hope is that if I'm going to be involved in a scandal, it's not a Twitter scandal. Something -- I want to give them something much better to look at than that.

BRAZILE: Amen.

KING: Everybody hang on. Everyone is going to stay with us. We'll talk again in just a second here. Going to take a quick break, though.

Still ahead, we've come full circle on our JOHN KING USA. We're revisiting our first show, when the big story was -- guess what? -- health-care reform, and the words from our guest that night just as poignant now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: ... read from it, because I assume this is somewhat of a bittersweet moment for you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We'll continue our conversation with Ryan Lizza, Ana Navarro and Donna Brazile.

On the big day of the health-care ruling, you see all the campaigns out sending out e-mails, trying to raise money, trying to gin up support among the base. How will it play out?

We also got new polls that remind us 131 days and, wow, do we have -- you remember this because you were Al Gore's campaign manager. This one looks like -- much more like Bush v. Gore than McCain versus Obama. Look at these battleground state polls. This is from NBC and Marist.

In Michigan, 47 to 43. That's a statistical tie. In the state of North Carolina, 46 to 43, the president on top. Again, that's a statistical tie. And in the state of New Hampshire, that's a tie, 45 to 45.

But you think back to 2000. A hundred and thirty days out, was it this? Did you feel it when you go state by state by state? Do you look at every one of them and go "wow"?

BRAZILE: Well, it's tight, but remember, back then, we had a larger playing field in terms of battleground states. We were still targeting 18 states. Then we went back to 15, then 18.

Right now, we're still looking at 9 or 10 states that will determine this election. And you look at those polls right now, I can tell you, nobody's sleeping in Chicago or in Boston tonight because that should worry them both.

KING: And so when it's this close at this point, it may break in the end. Usually when the tossup states are close, in the end they tend to break one way. We don't know. We'll see how this one plays out.

But what is the most important thing a campaign is doing now? Which is traditionally -- she says no one's sleeping. This is traditionally not the lull period but the more quiet period, preconvention.

NAVARRO: I think they have to prepare. They've got to prepare for a media war. They've got to raise money.

But they also have to make sure that they're not making mistakes and hoping that their opponent is making a mistake. Hoping for an October mistake would be a very good thing, because it would clarify things.

You know, we're also going to be looking at the polls in the battleground states on health care. I know that in Florida, the state I live in, health care is not popular. It is one of the biggest battleground states. It's 53 percent of the people in Florida say, "We don't like health care."

So I think we're going to be seeing a lot of health-care ads in some of these battleground states.

KING: Do you think that's true, because if you read the health- care polling, it's mixed messages? When you say a majority opposes the health-care law, that's true. A majority does. But some of those people are liberals who think it didn't go far enough. That's how you get the majority.

So, some of the opposition is people on the left saying no, we wanted everything.

LIZZA: Few things are pretty polarizing. Both parties tend to support the top Republican and top Democratic issues.

But on what they're doing in the states, when I was doing some interviews with the Obama people recently, one of the things they're trying to do is -- you know, besides the typical organizing -- is make this about a statewide election. So if the economy really tanks, they can, in Virginia, and in North Carolina, they can make it about local issues. You know, almost like a Senate campaign that can defy national trends if the economy tanks. NAVARRO: Organization, early voting, absentee ballots, those things are really going to matter in an election this close.

KING: And money, money, money.

Donna, Ana, Ryan, thanks for coming in.

Kate Bolduan is back now with the latest news you need to know right now.

Hey there.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, John.

Hello again, everyone.

It's one explosion after another in Syria's capital city. Just a day after bombers attacked a pro-government TV station, a pair of blasts shocked -- shook the heart of Damascus near the justice ministry. Nationwide, that leaves 120 people died in brutal clashes today.

All of this as Turkey moves soldiers and tanks to the border it shares with Syria. Syria shot down a Turkish military jet last week, and tensions are very high between the two countries.

Also, it's official, News Corp announced today it's splitting into two companies. One will include its television and film assets such as FOX News and 20th century FOX. "The Wall Street Journal," "New York Post" and the other publishing assets will make up a second entity.

Rupert Murdoch, though, says the split will take about 20 months, and he also will serve as chairman of both companies.

Take a look at this. Dramatic video of a dust storm barreling through parts of Phoenix. Pretty amazing stuff. The storm at times was reportedly more than 2,000 feet high, packing winds of 40 to 60 miles per hour. Thousands lost power but there are no reports of injuries. Still, pretty amazing video to look at.

And it also looks like the popular kid, unfortunately, does not always get picked first. David Beckham did not make the cut for Britain's Olympic soccer team this year. The L.A. Galaxy midfielder says he's very disappointed but hopes they'll win the gold.

Beckham helped lobby for England to host the games, and he was part of the Olympic flame handover ceremony just last month. A lot of thanks he gets, I guess, John.

KING: Yes. Really, hoping to get to the games and then "see you later, bye." Maybe he'll at least get some nice seats. You know?

BOLDUAN: I don't know if that's such a consolation prize. But okeydokey.

KING: There you go. I promise, he'll have nice seats for the soccer match. Football, football.

BOLDUAN: Football.

KING: All right, Kate. Stay right here. Finally, tonight's "Moment You May Have Missed" or maybe just forgotten helps me complete a circle.

This is my last day anchoring this program and, like the first day, health-care reform was the day's driving story. On that day one, the night before President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act into law, among our guests was Vicki Kennedy, the widow of the Massachusetts senator, Edward M. Kennedy, who for decades, as you know, was the Democratic Party's leading champion of health-care reform.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KING: In his final days, he sent the president of the United States a letter. And I want to read from it, because I assume this is somewhat of a bittersweet moment for you. You get this victory but without your husband here.

He wrote the president, "When I thought of all the years, all the battles, and all the memories of my long public life, I felt confident in these closing days that, while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the president who at long last signs into law the health- care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society. It was the cause of my life."

Sadness in writing those words, when he was writing the words, "I will not be there, while I will not be there"? Was there any exhortation on your part, "Don't write those"?

VICKI KENNEDY, WIDOW OF TED KENNEDY: No, never. Never. Of course, I was personally sad, but no, never, because he didn't have self-pity. He isn't -- wasn't a man who had self-pity. Ever. So no, he wasn't feeling personal sadness. He was thinking, "This is an important thing to do. I won't be here." It was really almost a matter of fact sort of thing.

"So this letter will only be presented if I'm not here." He was certainly hopeful that he would be here. But he said, you know, this -- "I want you to give this letter to the president if I'm not here."

KING: We talk to those we lose and we miss. How have you communicated this in terms of talking to...

KENNEDY: I went to Arlington yesterday. And spent some time. You know, I do that frequently. And I thought yesterday was an important day to be there. Because I had hope and confidence and, you know, certainly, you know, wished that the bill would pass.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Today, not long after the Supreme Court issued its ruling, Vicki Kennedy released a statement that reads, "We still have much work to do to implement the law, and I hope we can all come together now to complete that work. The stakes are too high for us to do otherwise. As my late husband, Senator Edward Kennedy, said, what we face is above all a moral issue that is at stake, not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country."

Fascinating for her to come on, on day one of the program, Kate. And I thought maybe we'd go back in time. Little irony there that health care was the driving issue on this day, as well.

BOLDUAN: A little irony, and I think you put it really well, a really poignant way to kind of close the circle, John. I had completely forgotten that she had come on the program on day one. And it was really amazing to see her speaking again about her husband and talking about health care and see where we are today.

KING: I think we have those red chairs in storage. You want one to take home?

BOLDUAN: Sure thing. It would look great with the decor.

KING: It's all yours. That's all for us tonight. Kate will be here tomorrow night for you. I'll see you on the campaign trail. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.