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Rick Santorum Should Get Credit If Supreme Court Scraps Obamacare, Adviser Argues

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NEW YORK -- The Supreme Court will not rule on whether the individual mandate behind President Barack Obama's health care reform law is constitutional until June. But with this week's oral arguments viewed as having gone poorly for the administration, conservatives are already positioning themselves to take credit for the Affordable Care Act's demise.

On Thursday, the top political adviser to former Sen. Rick Santorum said that should the Court rule that the government cannot punish those who refuse to buy insurance, the Republican presidential candidate would deserve some of the credit -- all because he supported fellow Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, a moderate Republican who later joined the Democratic Party.

"As a reminder, as we watch this whole Obamacare Supreme Court review unfold, it is very important to understand that if Rick Santorum hadn't supported Specter, there is no guarantee that we would have had [Justice Samuel] Alito and [Chief Justice John] Roberts who are going to play, probably, a major role in this," Santorum's top adviser, John Brabender, told The Huffington Post. "He was very firm with Specter that he needed Bush's conservative judges to be confirmed ... And as you know, Specter did that. The proof is in the pudding."

The logic here is a bit circuitous. As chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Specter did play a role in bringing Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court. He voted for both when their nominations came before the committee, though he later expressed regret for having done so.

Santorum, meanwhile, has insisted that the reason he endorsed Specter during the 2004 campaign -- when he was being challenged by Club for Growth president and current Sen. Pat Toomey -- was because he had received a pledge to help get President George W. Bush's chosen justices to the bench.

But Specter claims there was never any such pledge. And even if there was one, the idea that it played a critical role in appointing conservative justices has always seemed far-fetched. These were, after all, Bush's nominees, and it's unlikely that Specter was going to rebuff the president.

As a public official, Santorum placed a heavy premium on dragging the court system to a more conservative perch. But he was hardly alone.

Still, should Obama's health care law be overturned, it would be a seminal achievement for a more conservative judiciary. And there will be some political spoils for those who helped pave the way.

"We will wait and see what happens with Obamacare, but I will tell you if somehow Specter's Democrat opponent would have won that year and you would have had different judges confirmed because of that, this whole Supreme Court piece could be completely different," said Brabender. "And frankly, I think the fact that there are two solid conservatives who are now on the court who maybe would not have been, I think people have to understand what the senator did mattered. And particularly to conservatives, it mattered in a very favorable way."

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