Republicans and Democrats have been wrangling for the upper hand in the health-care debate since last week's Supreme Court ruling upholding the law's mandate that individuals buy health insurance or face a penalty. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., a conservative, provided the pivotal vote in that decision by ruling that the penalty was legal under the government's taxing authority.
While technically handing a political victory to Obama, Roberts' ruling invigorated Republicans eager to cast the law as a new tax.
"The American people do not want to go down this path," said House Majority Leader John Boehner (R., Ohio). "They do not want the government telling them what kind of insurance policy they have to buy, and how much they have to pay for it, and if you don't like it we're going to tax you."
Democrats reject the characterization of the law, even as Roberts handed them a technical victory by voting to uphold the law. Lew said the mandate would affect only 1 percent of Americans - those who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it.
"It's a penalty for free riders," said Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D., N.Y.).
Republicans say the court ruling gives them fresh ammunition to attack Obama - and the Democrats who support him - in the coming election because of the health law's connection to jobs. The GOP says the law puts onerous mandates on industry that could stifle job creation.
"I think it's intertwined with the economy, and I think it's an example where Washington doesn't get it," Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) said Sunday that Republicans, including Mitt Romney, are "being the mouthpiece of the health-care industry" and that the bill will actually improve the economy.
"The costs were unsustainable," she said of health care. "It's a competitiveness issue for business and for our economy. So we had to [come] to a place where we lowered costs to all concerned, and that we again take it down a path where we continue to lower costs."
If given control of the Senate next year, McConnell said he would support using budget reconciliation rules to repeal the health-care law. Doing so would prohibit Senate filibusters and require only 51 votes to succeed. In 2010, Republicans lambasted Democrats for relying on these rules to pass the health-care bill, calling their tactics unusual and hyperpartisan.
The House is scheduled to vote to overturn the law on July 9. The vote will largely be symbolic since the Democrats control the Senate.
McConnell and Lew spoke on Fox News Sunday. Boehner, Schumer, and Coburn spoke on CBS's Face the Nation. Pelosi spoke on NBC's Meet the Press.