Democrats, who view health care a winning issue and who reclaimed the House majority in 2018 on their promise to expand access and bring down costs, are trying to use the Supreme Court case to press their advantage. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a vote for Monday on a measure to expand the health care law, in an effort to draw a sharp contrast between Democrats and Republicans.
“President Trump and the Republicans’ campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty,” Ms. Pelosi said in a statement late Thursday night, after the administration’s brief was filed.
“If President Trump gets his way,” she added, “130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions will lose the A.C.A.’s lifesaving protections and 23 million Americans will lose their health coverage entirely.”
The case the court will hear grows out of a lawsuit that Republican officials in 20 states, led by Texas, filed against the Department of Health and Human Services in February 2018, seeking to have the health law struck down. After Democratic victories in the 2018 midterm elections, two states, Wisconsin and Maine, withdrew.
When the case was argued in the trial court, the Trump administration, though a defendant, did not defend the law, siding instead with the plaintiffs. But unlike Texas and the other states, the administration argued at the time that only the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions should be struck down, but that the rest of the law, including its expansion of Medicaid, should survive.
Last year, however, the administration expanded its opposition, telling a federal appeals court that the entire law should be invalidated. In the meantime, another 17 states, led by California, intervened to defend the law, as did the House, now controlled by Democrats.
“Now is not the time to rip away our best tool to address very real and very deadly health disparities in our communities,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra of California said in a statement on Thursday, adding: “This fight comes at the most crucial time. The death toll from the coronavirus today is greater than the death toll of the Vietnam War.”