Senate GOP blocks bid to intervene in ObamaCare case

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a vote on a resolution that would have allowed the Senate to intervene in a federal lawsuit against ObamaCare.

Democrats asked for unanimous consent to authorize the Senate legal counsel to defend ObamaCare in court after a district judge in Texas declared the entire law unconstitutional last week.

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The case is almost certainly headed for an appeal. 

Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoEPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks Action on climate and energy: Beyond partisan talking points Overnight Energy: House votes to reopen Interior, EPA | Dems question EPA over Wheeler confirmation prep | Virginia Dem backs Green New Deal MORE (R-Wyo.) objected to a vote on the resolution and accused Democrats of playing politics. Only one senator needs to object to block a unanimous consent motion.

“Regardless of what happens in this legal process, we look to protect people with pre-existing conditions,” Barrasso said. 

Democrats argue that Republicans should want the Senate to intervene if they support protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

“If people say we all have sympathy and empathy for people with pre-existing conditions, if you want to protect then ... at least allow us to move forward on a unanimous consent so we can fight and have a fighting chance, as this thing will be appealed to the higher courts,” Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinLeaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight EPA's Wheeler faces grilling over rule rollbacks The Hill's Morning Report — No new negotiations as shutdown hits 25 days MORE (D-W.Va.) said.

Democrats have tried to tie the lawsuit to Republicans because the Trump administration declined to defend against the lawsuit filed by 20 Republican attorneys general. 

The attorneys general argued that ObamaCare is unconstitutional because it can’t stand without the individual mandate, which Congress repealed last year.

The administration argued that patient protections in the law, including those for people with pre-existing conditions, will be unconstitutional once the mandate penalty repeal takes effect Jan. 1.

“It is not too late for you to condemn this decision by requesting a stay and taking steps to defend the Affordable Care Act [ACA] moving forward,” Senate Democrats wrote in a letter to President TrumpDonald John TrumpVeterans groups demand end to shutdown: 'Get your act together' Brown launches tour in four early nominating states amid 2020 consideration Pence on border wall: Trump won't be ‘deterred’ by Dem ‘obstruction’ MORE on Wednesday.

“The ACA is, quite simply, the law of the land, and it is your Administration’s duty to defend it.”

Democratic attorneys general, led by California’s Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraDem added to Ways and Means Committee amid desire for more Hispanic members Judge blocks Trump contraception rule in 13 states Overnight Health Care: Judge pauses ObamaCare appeal amid shutdown | Trump officials consider Medicaid block grants for states | HHS closing tent city for migrant teens MORE, won the right to intervene and defend the law over the summer, and have vowed to appeal the decision.

House Democrats have said they will vote to intervene in the lawsuit once they assume the majority in January.