Cruz: Democrats want to pack court with judges to protect ObamaCare

Cruz: Democrats want to pack court with judges to protect ObamaCare
© Getty Images

Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzEl Chapo's lawyer fires back at Cruz: 'Ludicrous' to suggest drug lord will pay for wall Democrats have a chance of beating Trump with Julian Castro on the 2020 ticket Poll shows competitive matchup if O’Rourke ran for Senate again MORE (R-Texas), the Senate’s leading critic of the Affordable Care Act, denounced a vote Thursday to prohibit filibusters against appellate court nominees as a scheme to save the healthcare law.

“The heart of this action is directed at packing the D.C. Circuit because that is the court that will review the lawless behavior of the Obama administration implementing ObamaCare,” he said.

ADVERTISEMENT

“President Obama and the administration refuse to follow the plain text of the law, and the D.C. Circuit is the court of appeals that has been holding the administration accountable."

Cruz said the rule change, which passed Thursday with 50 Democratic votes, “was designed to pack that court with judges that they believe will be a rubber stamp.”

The vote to pass the rules change was 52-48, with the two independents, Sens. Angus KingAngus Stanley KingDrama hits Senate Intel panel’s Russia inquiry Warner, Burr split on committee findings on collusion Overnight Defense: Top general wasn't consulted on Syria withdrawal | Senate passes bill breaking with Trump on Syria | What to watch for in State of the Union | US, South Korea reach deal on troop costs MORE (Maine) and Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSenate Dems introduce bill to prevent Trump from using disaster funds to build wall Klobuchar, O'Rourke visit Wisconsin as 2020 race heats up Sherrod Brown pushes for Medicare buy-in proposal in place of 'Medicare for all' MORE (Vt.), voting with the Democrats, and three Democrats voting against the change.

The addition of three Democratic-appointed judges to the 11-seat court would shift its ideological balance, which had been tilted to the right. This could have significant implications for the new healthcare law because the court has primary jurisdiction over many federal regulatory matters.

Other Republican senators also expressed concern that a Democratic bias on the court would make it harder to halt the implementation of ObamaCare. 

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoDems slam EPA plan for fighting drinking water contaminants Overnight Energy: Zinke joins Trump-tied lobbying firm | Senators highlight threat from invasive species | Top Republican calls for Green New Deal vote in House Senators highlight threat from invasive species MORE (Wyo.), the chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee, said the next stage of battling the law’s implementation would take place in the D.C. Circuit.

“Lawsuits affecting the healthcare law will go through this court, and if the president is able to pack this court, it’s his effort to try to defend a law the American people don’t like and believe they can’t afford,” he said. 

Republicans are planning hearings in the House Judiciary Committee to scrutinize whether Obama has adhered to the Constitution, according to a member of the panel.

Democrats rejected the GOP accusations Thursday. They argued that Republicans are trying to tie the battle over judicial nominees to the Affordable Care Act in an effort to distract attention from their obstructionist tactics.

Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats National emergency declaration — a legal fight Trump is likely to win House Judiciary Dems seek answers over Trump's national emergency declaration MORE (N.Y.), the third-ranking Senate Democratic leader, said Republican Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP Green New Deal stunt is a great deal for Democrats The national emergency will haunt Republicans come election season Trump: McConnell should keep Senate in session until nominees are approved MORE (Ky.) “doesn’t want to address the filibusters; he doesn’t want to address the rules changes, so three quarters of his speech is dedicated to ObamaCare.” 

Senate Majority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidConstitutional conservatives need to oppose the national emergency Klobuchar: 'I don't remember' conversation with Reid over alleged staff mistreatment Dems wary of killing off filibuster MORE (D-Nev.) said Democrats were entirely motivated by a desire to break Senate gridlock.

“The changes that we made today will apply equally to both parties. When Republicans are in power, these changes will apply to them as well,” he said. “That’s something both sides should be willing to live with to make Washington work again.”

The Senate voted to change the chamber’s rules to exempt executive and most judicial branch nominees from filibusters, effectively lowering the threshold for confirmation to 51 votes. The modification does not affect Supreme Court nominees.

The change could help Obama implement the law in other ways. It has immediately improved the chances of confirming nominees to the Independent Payment Advisory Board. The 15-member panel, one of the most controversial facets of the law, has responsibility for curbing the cost of Medicare. The administration had little hope for setting up the board before Thursday’s rule change.

The change would also give Obama more flexibility in deciding whether to replace Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? New Dem Kansas gov reinstates protections for LGBT state employees Next Kansas governor to reinstate LGBT protections for state workers MORE, who has received a large portion of blame for the law’s botched rollout. 

Prior to this week, any effort to replace Sebelius would have had to contend with the daunting prospect of moving her successor through a contentious Senate confirmation process. Now if Obama picked someone else to take the department’s helm, he or she would have a much better chance of a speedy confirmation.

Sen. Tom HarkinThomas (Tom) Richard HarkinIowa’s Ernst will run for reelection in 2020 California primary threatens to change 2020 game for Dems Mellman: Dems’ presidential pick will be chosen in a flash MORE (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, said he has not even contemplated Sebelius stepping down.

Ten Republican senators, including Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsGOP senators offer praise for Klobuchar: 'She’s the whole package' The Hill's Morning Report - House Dems prepare to swamp Trump with investigations The Hill's Morning Report — Will Ralph Northam survive? MORE (Kan.), her home-state senator, sent a letter to Obama earlier this month calling for her resignation.