GOP lawmakers distance themselves from ObamaCare ruling

Republicans are keeping their distance from a recent court ruling that struck down ObamaCare, as GOP lawmakers are wary of the political backlash that could ensue from scrapping the law.

Many congressional Republicans remain silent after a federal judge on Friday struck down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. And those who have spoken out largely steered clear of embracing the decision.

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The muted response illustrates how the politics of the 2010 health law have shifted, with Democrats successfully hammering Republicans during the 2018 midterms over GOP efforts to weaken the law’s pre-existing condition protections.

Sen. Roy BluntRoy Dean BluntHillicon Valley: Trump takes flak for not joining anti-extremism pact | Phone carriers largely end sharing of location data | Huawei pushes back on ban | Florida lawmakers demand to learn counties hacked by Russians | Feds bust 0M cybercrime group Top Republican says Senate unlikely to vote on any election security bills San Francisco becomes first city to ban facial recognition technology MORE (Mo.), a member of Senate GOP leadership, wouldn't say this week whether he supported the judge’s decision.

“The thing to remember about the judge's ruling is it has no immediate impact,” Blunt said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

He also suggested that Democrats will have a field day with the ruling.

“Health care will be used as a political issue way beyond the ramifications of one district judge making a ruling that has no immediate impact,” Blunt said.

Indeed, Democrats seized on the judge’s decision and used it to attack Republicans, a line of criticism they said will continue into the 2020 campaign.

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“Republicans are fully responsible for this cruel decision and for the fear they have struck into millions of families across America who are now in danger of losing their health coverage,” House Democratic Leader Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE (Calif.) said in a statement.

Pelosi plans to move quickly next month to hold a vote on having the House intervene in the lawsuit, which Democrats hope will put many Republicans in tough spot. Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars Getting serious about infrastructure Schumer calls on McConnell to hold vote on Equality Act MORE (N.Y.) said he will push for a similar vote in the Senate.

“It puts a lot of our Republicans in a box,” Schumer said Sunday on NBC.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — McConnell, Kaine offer bill to raise tobacco buying age to 21 | Measles outbreak spreads to 24 states | Pro-ObamaCare group launches ad blitz to protect Dems MORE (R-Ky.) has not issued a statement about the ruling.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynGOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Trump's immigration push faces Capitol Hill buzzsaw The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition - Restrictive state abortion laws ignite fiery 2020 debate MORE (Texas), the No. 2 GOP senator, declined to say Monday whether he supported the lawsuit.

“Politicians opining on what they think judges should or should not do, I don't put a lot of stock in that,” Cornyn said in response to a reporter's question.

Sen. Joni ErnstJoni Kay ErnstBullock: Running for Senate 'never really got me excited' Dem Senate campaign arm hits GOP lawmakers over Trump tax law GOP angst grows amid Trump trade war MORE (R-Iowa), who faces a potentially tough reelection bid in 2020, declined to discuss the ruling with a reporter in a Senate hallway on Monday, instead referring to her written statement.

“It is important that we protect people with pre-existing conditions, as we repeal and replace Obamacare,” she said in her statement.

The GOP tack is a stark contrast to previous lawsuits against ObamaCare in 2012 and 2015, which were enthusiastically supported by Republicans.

As the Affordable Care Act has become more entrenched, and after Republicans tried to undo much of its coverage expansion last year, the focus has shifted to the benefits that would be taken away if repeal efforts succeeded, such as popular protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Some Republicans, including Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderIt's time for Republicans to lead (again) on climate WANTED: A Republican with courage Overnight Health Care — Presented by Campaign for Accountability — House passes drug pricing bills amid ObamaCare row | Senate Republicans running away from Alabama abortion law | Ocasio-Cortez confronts CEO over K drug price tag MORE (Tenn.), went so far as to say they expect Friday's ruling to be overturned on appeal.

“I believe that it will be overturned,” Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsDem senator: Many Republicans 'privately expressed concerns' about Mueller findings Congress: Support legislation to defend Medicare home health  The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by Pass USMCA Coalition — Trump: GOP has `clear contrast' with Dems on immigration MORE (R-Maine) said Sunday on ABC, calling the decision “far too sweeping.”

Legal experts in both parties say it is extremely unlikely that the legal challenge to the law will succeed once the ruling is appealed. While the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the next stop for the case, is considered a conservative court, some legal experts say the challenge won't go any further, meaning it won't reach the Supreme Court.

Judge Reed O’Connor, who issued Friday’s ruling, is a George W. Bush appointee. In his ruling he wrote that the law’s mandate to have coverage is unconstitutional, and therefore the rest of the law is also invalid.

Legal experts said it is obvious that Congress wanted the rest of the Affordable Care Act to remain in place because lawmakers repealed only the mandate last year, purposely leaving the rest of the law standing.

But Friday's ruling is already poised to do some damage politically.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board, a stalwart of Republican thought, warned that the ruling could “boomerang politically” on Republicans.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - White House, Congress: Urgency of now around budget GOP presses Trump to make a deal on spending Democrats wary of handing Trump a win on infrastructure MORE, one of the few Republicans who was enthusiastic about the decision, called the ruling “great news for America,” and urged both parties to work together on a replacement — a nearly impossible task given the divisive nature of the law.

Ford O’Connell, a GOP strategist, said he would advise Republicans not to say they support the ruling, but instead talk about the broader issue of reducing health-care costs.

“Regardless of the decision, the costs are still the problem,” he said.

“Why back yourself into a corner” by taking a position on the decision, he added.