Democrats turn focus to health care for Supreme Court fight


Democrats are increasingly focusing on health care in pushing back on President Trump’s expected Supreme Court nominee, with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez warning Saturday that a bolstered conservative majority on the court could vote to overturn ObamaCare.

Perez, speaking on NBC’s “Today” show, warned that the issue of health care is at stake both in the presidential election on Nov. 3 and one week later when the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments in a Trump administration-backed lawsuit seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Health care is on the ballot on Nov. 3. Health care is on the docket on Nov. 10. And we are going to remind voters every single day,” Perez said.

“The American people with preexisting conditions understand that the Republicans had control of everything in 2017. They couldn’t get rid of ObamaCare because the American people understand how important protections for people with preexisting conditions are. So now they’re trying to do another end run,” he added.

The Democratic leader tore into Republicans who are looking to fill the Supreme Court vacancy before the election, noting that the Senate GOP blocked former President Obama from filling an opening in 2016 during the last presidential election.

“We saw from [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell [R-Ky.]: ‘The American people should have a say in who the nominee is.’ Those aren’t my words. Those are Mitch McConnell’s. [Sen.] Lindsey Graham [R-S.C.], the same thing. Every member of the committee in 2016. The hypocrisy is rank,” Perez said.

Democrats have launched an array of attacks on Senate Republicans ahead of Trump’s nomination to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The late justice, who served on the court for 27 years and was its liberal leader, died last week and laid in state in the Capitol on Friday.

Trump is expected to name Amy Coney Barrett, a judge on the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, as his pick during an event in the White House Rose Garden on Saturday afternoon. Conservatives have long urged Trump to pick Barrett for the court, and she was on his original list of potential nominees.

Barrett has not offered extensive remarks on the Obama administration’s signature health care law in the past, though she has been critical of Supreme Court decisions protecting ObamaCare.

“Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute,” Barrett wrote in 2017. “He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax, which permitted him to sustain the statute as a valid exercise of the taxing power; had he treated the payment as the statute did — as a penalty — he would have had to invalidate the statute as lying beyond Congress’s commerce power.”

Some Democrats have expressed frustration over the party’s messaging ahead of the Senate fight to confirm Trump’s expected Supreme Court pick, the third one he has put forward since taking office. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) tweeted Friday night that “a little message discipline wouldn’t kill us.”

Schatz highlighted messaging from former Obama adviser Dan Pfeiffer, who argued that the GOP is rushing to fill a court vacancy so the party can install a justice who would vote to overturn the Obama-era health care law, “kicking millions off their health care.” Pfeiffer said Democrats “should say this, using these words.”

Democrats have signaled they intend to emphasize the Texas-led lawsuit against ObamaCare during the confirmation fight. “It’ll be a major focus,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, told NBC News this week. “There are others.”

Perez argued Saturday that Republicans are seeking to undermine the ACA, abortion access and a string of other liberal priorities with another Supreme Court pick, though he acknowledged that with Democrats in the minority in the Senate, there’s little the party can do to stop Trump’s pick from being confirmed.

“We’re going to subject the nominee to a lot of questions. Again, the Affordable Care Act is on the ballot. What is this person going to protect people with preexisting conditions? How do you feel about precedent? Are you going to throw it out the window so that you can achieve the president’s agenda of getting rid of health care for people with preexisting conditions? Those are important questions to ask,” he said when asked what the party could do to prevent a nominee from being confirmed.

Tags Affordable Care Act Amy Coney Barrett Brian Schatz Death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Joe Biden Lindsey Graham Mitch McConnell ObamaCare Ruth Bader Ginsburg Tom Perez

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