Trump pushes for courts to void Obamacare
The Trump administration urged a federal court this week to invalidate the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, an abrupt policy change that startled Democrats, and many in the president’s own party as well. The Justice Department had earlier argued that only the health-care law’s consumer protections, including those for people with pre-existing conditions, should be found unconstitutional. Yet a federal judge in Texas ruled the entire law was void last December, and now the Justice Department says the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should affirm his ruling. If that happens, 21 million Americans could lose health-care coverage and virtually every person with insurance would be affected, including the 133 million with pre-existing conditions.
Two key Cabinet officials—Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General William Barr—opposed the new strategy, Politico reports. Trump visited Capitol Hill this week and said, “The Republican Party will be the party of health care,” then met privately with Republicans to revive efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Support for the law fueled the Democratic landslide in the 2018 midterm elections, with a CNN exit poll finding that Democrats won 75 percent of voters most concerned about health care. Democrats pounced on the Justice Department’s move, which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an “all-out war on the health care of the American people.” A day later, House Democrats introduced a proposal to bolster the Affordable Care Act and counter efforts to undercut it.
What the columnists said
What dumbfounding timing, said Max Nisen in Bloomberg.com. Trump just scored a massive win by being cleared of collusion with Russia, yet “he seems intent on squandering any political advantage.” This is a “gift” for Democrats, and jettisoning the ACA would “create widespread chaos.” It’s impossible to see this “as part of a clever political strategy,” said Paul Krugman in The New York Times, “even a nefariously cynical one.” After the midterms, Republicans might have finally moved on. “But no.”
Most conservatives would “love for the law to be entirely repealed,” said Philip Klein in WashingtonExaminer.com. Yet “whatever one’s policy views, the legal argument is a mess from start to finish.” The Texas judge, and now the White House, believe the 2017 tax law paved the way for all of Obamacare to be deemed unconstitutional because it reduced the tax penalty for not buying insurance to $0. Thus the “individual mandate” is no longer a tax, and therefore the whole law falls outside Congress’ taxation powers. That’s a “bizarre theory.”
Trump’s strategy is as “substantively horrifying” as it is “politically bonkers,” said Paul Waldman in WashingtonPost.com. Democratic presidential contenders have tried to one-up each other on grand health-care proposals like Medicare for All. Now they can focus on stopping Trump from “snatching coverage away from millions of Americans.” Whatever comes of the lawsuit, Democrats got “much of their 2020 campaign written for them.”