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Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit

The Hill logo The Hill 5 days ago Alexander Bolton
Joe Manchin wearing a suit and tie: Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit © Aaron Schwartz Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit

Vulnerable Senate Democrats joined dozens of their colleagues Friday in calling on President Trump to stop helping a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that could wipe out protections for pre-existing medical conditions.

Forty-four Democrats led by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) - who has come under attack from Trump for his impeachment vote - Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) - who's up for reelection in a swing state - and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) wrote to Trump asking him to rein in his Department of Justice (DOJ), which supports a lawsuit in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to repeal ObamaCare.

"You could bring peace of mind to millions of Americans tomorrow by simply directing the DOJ to do its job and defend the law of the land instead of arguing against protections for people with pre-existing conditions and against access to affordable health care coverage," the lawmakers wrote.

Sen. Doug Jones (Ala.), the most endangered Democratic incumbent in the 2020 cycle, also signed on.

Notably, several Republican senators in tough reelection races, such as Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), who in the past have voiced support for protections for those with pre-existing conditions, did not support the letter.

The Department of Justice typically defends federal laws that come under challenge, but in the case of Texas v. United States, in which several attorneys general are trying to overturn ObamaCare, the department has filed a brief on behalf of the plaintiffs.

The Trump administration filed a brief in May arguing the appellate court should strike down all of the health care law, reversing an earlier position that some parts of it should be preserved.

The Democratic lawmakers noted that Trump's recent budget proposal would fully fund the department's effort to repeal protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which could impact tens of millions of people.

They argued Trump's budget "makes no mention of the millions of people who would lose health care coverage should the DOJ succeed in court."

"Instead, it promotes the sale of short-term or 'junk' health plans that threaten access to quality and affordable care for Americans with pre-existing conditions," they wrote.

Democrats, who have seen Trump's approval rating rise during the impeachment battle, are seeking to regain political momentum by hitting the president on one of their favorite issues: protecting people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The topic was a big winner for Democrats in the 2018 midterm election, and Trump, who tried and failed to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017, has tried to deny that he wants to weaken protections for people with underlying conditions, one of the most popular elements of ObamaCare.

A Senate Democratic aide said it appears the relentless Democratic criticisms of GOP efforts to do away with protections for pre-existing medical conditions have had an effect.

Trump's budget dropped language included in previous spending blueprints that made more explicit reference to repealing ObamaCare.

"They're tired of taking their lumps on this," the aide said of Republicans.

Judges on the 5th Circuit appeared skeptical of the constitutionality of ObamaCare when they heard oral arguments in June. In December, the appeals court ruled that the ObamaCare insurance mandate is unconstitutional and sent the case back to the district court to decide what that means for the rest of the law.

The Supreme Court may review the case this year, but a final verdict from Chief Justice John Roberts and his colleagues isn't expected before the November election. The Supreme Court last month denied a request to expedite its decision.

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