No turning back now!
President Trump confirmed Wednesday that his administration was not backing down from the aggressive anti-Obamacare stance it’s taking in a blockbuster case in front of the Supreme Court.
After reports that even Attorney General Bill Barr was concerned about the political risks of the Justice Department’s posture in the case, Trump said the administration was “staying with Texas and the group,” referring to the red states that are arguing for a full dismantling of the Affordable Care Act.
“Obamacare is a disaster, but we’ve made it barely acceptable,” Trump said, according to a pool report of comments made in the Oval Office. “We want to terminate health care under Obamacare.”
The Supreme Court received its first round of merits briefs — filed by the House of Representatives and the blue states seeking to defend the law — on Wednesday. If the administration was going to change its position in the case, Wednesday was also presumed to be its deadline for doing so.
Trump’s comments made clear that his Justice Department is holding on to its arguments that the whole law should be invalidated.
When the red states originally brought the lawsuit, the Justice Department, then under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, took on a relatively less far reaching, but still controversial position. It argued that the law’s insurance market reforms — including its protections for pre-existing conditions — be thrown out, rather than the whole law.
But in 2019, despite the reported concerns of Barr and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the White House expanded its Obamacare opposition to its current posture: that the whole law should be struck down. The case is based on a claim that the 2017 tax reform bill made the whole Affordable Care Act unconstitutional by zeroing out Obamacare’s individual mandate.
Given that Democrats swept the 2018 midterms by running on Republicans’ previous attempts to repeal Obamacare, and that the coronavirus outbreak is only further putting the issue in the spotlight, the administration’s arguments in the case are likely to be a major issue in the presidential campaign.
In his remarks Wednesday, Trump vowed that he would replace Obamacare with something cheaper that still covers pre-existing conditions — a promise that congressional Republicans found impossible to achieve when they tried in 2017.
It is not clear yet whether the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case before the November election, and it is almost certain the case won’t be resolved until well after Americans vote for their next president.