The longstanding internal Trump administration battle over tearing down Obamacare has come to a head again.
Attorney General Bill Barr, in a White House meeting Monday, renewed his push for the White House to back off from its aggressive anti-Obamacare stance in a pending Supreme Court case, CNN reported.
The deadline is in the coming days for any changes to the administration’s position in the case.
Barr reportedly argued to White House aides that the Justice Department’s current posture â€” asking the Supreme Court to fully dismantle the health care law â€” was politically risky in an election season, particularly as the coronavirus outbreak rages throughout the United States.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear the case in its next term, which begins in October.
Already, the Justice Department’s handling of the case was departure from the norm. The Department has not only refused to defend the law, but has adopted a stance opposed even by some of the administration’s congressional allies.
The way that politics apparently has dominated the administration’s litigative decisions has fueled criticisms of the Justice Department under President Trump.
Currently, the administration is backing the argument of several red states, led by Texas, that claim that changes to the law passed in the 2017 GOP tax bill make the entire Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.
Even congressional Republicans who supported the tax measure have pushed back on the administration’s current arguments.
When the Trump administration, under then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions, first indicated it would not be defending the law, its arguments against it were less far reaching than they are now. The administration initially supported the invalidation of the protections for pre-existing conditions and other Obamacare provisions closely tied to the individual mandate, which was zeroed out in the 2017 tax bill.
In 2019, in a move that reportedly pit then White House chief-of-staff Mick Mulvaney against Barr and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the administration expanded its opposition in the lawsuit. (Mulvaney supported the more aggressive stance, Azar and Barr reportedly did not.) Now, if the Trump administration gets its way, the entire law, including its Medicaid expansion, could be knocked out by the Supreme Court.
In previous White House debates over the case, Barr has reportedly pointed to the skepticism even among conservative legal experts that the Supreme Court would actually blow up Obamacare now, after refusing to do so in the face of two other major legal attacks that were far less flimsy than the current one.
But even if the justices uphold the law yet again, the Court’s decision won’t likely come until after the election. Democrats have made clear they intend to focus on the efforts by the administration to take down the law â€” a message that served Democrats well in their 2018 midterm sweep.
The Justice Department declined to comment in the CNN report and a Department spokesperson did not respond to TPM’s inquiry.
Vice President Mike Pence, White House counsel Pat Cipollone, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany andÂ members of the Domestic Policy Council were among those to whom Barr made his case Monday, according to CNN. No final decision was made on changing the administration’s position, CNN said.