ATLANTA - Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal says President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is the largest tax increase in the U.S. history.
The Republican governor said at a Thursday afternoon news conference that his administration may wait until the November elections before implementing parts of the law. GOP leaders are hoping that if Republican Mitt Romney wins the White House and Republicans take Congress, the health care law could be overturned, and Deal on Thursday called on Congress to repeal it.
Deal said his administration may ask the federal government for more time to decide whether Georgia will implement its own health insurance exchange or whether it wants the federal government to do it.
The Supreme Court's ruling gave states the option to decide whether to expand health care coverage in their Medicaid programs. Deal said it was too early to say whether Georgia would participate.
State Attorney General Sam Olens, also a Republican, joined with other states seeking to block the law. He says the Supreme Court ruling implies there are no longer meaningful limits on federal authority. He is also calling for the law to be repealed.
GRAVES, CHAMBLISS, ISAKSON AND OTHERS IN CONGRESS
Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA-09) called Thursday "a dark day in our history," adding, "while I'm disappointed in the Supreme Court's decision, I'm more resolved than ever to repealing this law in its entirety."
Another northeast Georgia congressman, Paul Broun (R-GA-10) said "Today is a sad day for liberty. The Court's misguided decision is an attack on freedom, an insult to our Constitution, and it will ultimately destroy the best healthcare system in the world."
Georgia's two U.S. Senators, both Republicans, weighed in with similar remarks.
Saxby Chambliss said "I am disappointed in today's decision. While I believe the individual mandate to directly contradict the Constitution, we must respect the decision of the court. However, this is not the final chapter in the healthcare-reform debate. Johnny Isakson said "I am sorely disappointed that the Court has upheld the individual mandate as a legal tax on the American people.
But the dean of the state's Congressional delegation, Democrat John Lewis of Atlanta, praised the ruling. "This is a great victory for the American people. The Supreme Court decision makes it clear that people have been misled about the benefits of this bill and its value to them and their families."
Another Democratic member of the delegation called the ruling a "victory" for Georgia. Sanford Bishop added "Understanding that this bill is not perfect, I am thankful that my constituents will continue to be benefitted by the continuation of the healthcare law."
State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said the Deal administration should start putting the law into effect locally. He noted that former Gov. Sonny Perdue accepted federal stimulus money from the Obama administration despite having political misgivings. While Georgia made deep financial cuts to cope with the recession, the stimulus money allowed lawmakers to cut less than would have otherwise been necessary without broad tax increases.
"However much they whined about it, they took the money," Fort said. "Be responsible."
(AccessNorthGa.com's Ken Stanford contributed to this story.)