The Reaction In Florida: From Protesting To Partying

Jun 28, 2012
Originally published on June 28, 2012 7:32 pm

Just after 10 a.m. on Thursday, a cheer went up at Hispanic Health Initiatives, a nonprofit in Casselberry, Fla., just north of Orlando.

The enthusiasm for the Supreme Court's decision to uphold nearly all of the federal health care law was unmistakable at the nonprofit, which advocates for health care for the local Latino population.

The news took Josephine Mercado, the nonprofit's founder and executive director, by surprise — and changed her plans for Friday.

"We're having a party. We're all set," says Mercado, who's been a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act. "We're going to have iced tea and cookies and we're going to play music. And we're going to really be very, very happy that this worked out the way it did."

Mercado tells NPR's Robert Siegel she didn't expect the ruling to go the way it did. She says that if the Supreme Court had thrown out the health care law, she would have been protesting instead of partying.

Between working at low-paying jobs or at part-time jobs, Hispanics are the ethnic group most likely to be uninsured.

"I would say nationwide the percentage was, more or less, 34 percent. And here in Central Florida, I would say it's about 60 percent or more that are uninsured," Mercado said. "It's a hardworking population. Unfortunately, they cannot afford the premiums. And that's really what this law is all about. It's about making insurance more affordable."

Much of the relief that the Affordable Care Act would bring to the people served by Mercado's group would be through expanding Medicaid eligibility. And while the impact of Thursday's ruling on that part of the law was still unclear, the feeling at Hispanic Health Initiatives was: This was a win.

Not so for Todd Long, a conservative activist and Tea Party Republican. He's running for the GOP nomination in Florida's 9th Congressional District.

Long was very critical of what the court did Thursday. And he lumped it together with the court throwing out parts of Arizona's immigration law earlier this week.

"They restricted Americans' freedoms," he said. "They restricted Americans' rights, and said, 'I don't care about your rights or your freedom; the federal government's going to tell you what you're going to do, how you're going to do it, and if they want you to buy something, they can call it a tax."

Long called Chief Justice John Roberts' decision to side with the justices of the court's liberal wing "jaw-dropping."

"I think ... his ruling in the Arizona case a few days ago should have tipped us off, because anybody that believes, like I said, in individual rights, the Constitution and the rights of the states to take care of themselves, take care of their own affairs, would have never made that ruling they did in Arizona," Long said. "So when you put these two rulings together, you get an idea that Justice Roberts doesn't believe in our Constitution and individual rights and the rights of states, in my opinion."

He added: "There's no way in the world the founders of this country would have ever sat there and let the federal government do this to the individual rights and rights of the people."

Long says politically, it's time to fight for the health care law's repeal.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

And I'm Robert Siegel in Orlando, Florida this week.

This morning, I sought out two very different reactions here to today's Supreme Court decision sustaining the Affordable Care Act, the big health care law.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: At 10, we were listening to the local Public Radio station, WFME, at Hispanic Health Initiatives in Casselberry, Florida. It's a local nonprofit. Casselberry is just north of Orlando. It took about 10 minutes for the dust to settle and the Supreme Court's conclusions to become clear. And once that happened, the enthusiasm was unmistakable.

(APPLAUSE)

SIEGEL: Josephine Mercado is the founder and executive director of Hispanic Health Initiatives. The group advocates for health care for the local Latino, mostly Puerto Rican, population. Mercado has been a strong supporter of the Affordable Care Act. And this morning's news cheered her, took her by surprise and changed her plans for tomorrow.

JOSEPHINE MERCADO: We're having a party. We're all set. We're going to have iced tea and cookies, and are going to play music. And we're going to really be very, very happy that this worked out the way it did.

SIEGEL: Celebrating the Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act.

MERCADO: Of course. Of course, you know, judicial wisdom sometimes is very, very tricky. I didn't expect this to happen. And I...

SIEGEL: 'Cause you're all prepared for them to throw out the mandate.

MERCADO: Absolutely. Absolutely.

SIEGEL: And in that case, what would your plans for Friday have been?

MERCADO: Protest, that P would have been turned to the other P - protest.

(LAUGHTER)

SIEGEL: Between working at low-paying jobs or at part-time jobs, Hispanics are the Americans most likely to be uninsured.

MERCADO: I would say, nationwide, the percentage was more or less 34 percent. And here in Central Florida, I would say it's about 60 percent or more that are uninsured. And it's a hard working population. Unfortunately, they cannot afford the premiums and that's really what this law is all about. It's about making insurance more affordable.

SIEGEL: Much of the relief that the Affordable Care Act would bring to the population Josephine Mercado's group serves would be through expanding Medicaid eligibility. And while the impact of today's ruling on that part of the law was still unclear, the feeling this morning at Hispanic Health Initiatives was this was a win for their side.

Not so for Todd Long. He is a conservative activist, a Tea Party Republican. He's running for the GOP nomination in Florida's Ninth Congressional District. Long was very critical of what the Court did today. And he lumped it together with the court throwing out parts of the Arizona immigration law earlier this week.

TODD LONG: They restricted Americans' freedom. They restricted Americans' rights, and said I don't care about your rights are your freedom. The federal government is going to tell you what you're going to do, how you're going to do it. And if they want you to buy something they can call it a tax.

SIEGEL: Chief Justice Roberts has not been a very liberal chief justice of the Supreme Court. A lot of people were surprised that it was he and not the more typical swing vote, Justice Kennedy, making a majority with the four Democrat nominees to the court. For you, are you surprised or disappointed in Justice Roberts?

LONG: Absolutely, I think that's just jaw-dropping for everybody. And I think what his ruling in the Arizona case, a few days ago, should have tipped us off. Because anybody that believes, like I said, in individual rights, the Constitution, the rights of the states to take care of themselves, take care of their own affairs would've never made that ruling they did in Arizona.

So, we put these two rulings together, and you get an idea that Justice Roberts doesn't believe in our Constitution and individual rights and the rights of states, in my opinion.

SIEGEL: Is he now going to become a villain of conservative talk shows or...

LONG: Absolutely.

SIEGEL: Really?

LONG: Absolutely, there's no excuse for this. There is no way in the world the Founders of this country would have ever sat there and let the federal government do this to the individual rights and rights of the people.

SIEGEL: But, you know, he's a Republican nominee to the bench with a pretty conservative record. I mean, we're not going to see impeach Chief Justice Roberts signs around the country, are we?

LONG: I don't know. I just know this - these last two decisions make it clear he doesn't respect the right of the individual or the state.

SIEGEL: Orlando, Florida Tea Party activist and aspiring congressional candidate, Todd Long says politically, it is time to fight for the health care law's repeal. We also heard from a very happy Josephine Mercado of Hispanic Health Initiatives. Two different reactions to the Supreme Court from in and around Orlando, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.