WHITE HOUSE -- President Obama says the Supreme Court ruling upholding the health-care reform law, his landmark legislative achievement, is a victory for all Americans. Although the ruling is a major victory for the president, Republicans are describing it as a momentary defeat, and they vow they will repeal the law.
Obama spoke in the White House East Room after the high court issued its ruling on the Affordable Care Act.
In the court's 5-4 ruling, the conservative chief justice voted with four liberals in upholding the centerpiece of the law, the so-called individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance by 2014 or pay a financial penalty.
Since Congress passed the law in 2010 against Republican opposition, a national political battle has ranged over this provision, which opponents said violated the Constitution by forcing people to buy a product they may not want.
President Obama said the ruling will be the subject of intense discussion, but it is a victory for all Americans.
"I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this - about who won and who lost," he said. "That is how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington. But that discussion completely misses the point. Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country, whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold it."
The Supreme Court's majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, said legal precedent demonstrates that Congress has the power to impose a tax, and this principle justifies keeping the mandate in force.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy said he and three conservative justices believe the entire law is invalid.
Obama has faced criticism of the way he pushed the health care law through Congress, with some in his own Democratic Party saying he did not do enough to educate Americans about its benefits.
In his East Room remarks he listed those benefits and said he understands the concerns Americans expressed in what has been a "divisive" debate. But he urged Americans to leave that behind them.
"The highest court in the land has now spoken," the president said. "We will continue to implement this law. And we will work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won't do - what the country can't afford to do - is re-fight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were."
Aiming to provide insurance to about 30 million Americans who have not had it, the law contains a number of provisions that enjoy strong public support.
These include preventing insurance companies from denying coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions, banning limits on payouts for coverage, and allowing young people to stay on parents' insurance plans until the age of 26.
Despite this major victory, the president now faces the opposition party's intensified efforts to repeal the law. Republicans who control the House of Representatives scheduled a vote for July 11.
In the U.S. Senate, Republican minority leader Mitch McConnell spoke shortly after the court ruling was announced.
"Republicans will not let up whatsoever in our determination to repeal this terrible law and replace it with the kind of reforms that will truly address the problems it was meant to solve," he said.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said the court did not endorse the law as "good policy," and renewed his vow to repeal the legislation if he is elected.
"This is a time of choice for the American people. Our mission is clear. If we want to get rid of Obamacare we're going to have to replace President Obama. My mission is to make sure we do exactly that," he said.
After the court ruling, Republicans and opponents of the health care law renewed assertions that it will drive health care costs higher and add to the federal government's budget deficit and long-term debt.