Reflecting widespread concerns within his party, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has told President Trump he disagrees with the Trump administration’s attempt to get the entire Affordable Care Act thrown out in court.
McCarthy told Trump over the phone that the decision made no sense — especially after Democrats killed Republicans in the midterms in part over the issue of pre-existing conditions, according to two sources familiar with their recent conversation. As Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur points out — health care was the top issue for 2018 midterm voters, and voters who cared most about health care favored Democrats over Republicans by more than 50 percentage points.
Only 37 percent of adults have negative opinions of the ACA, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, and 50 percent view it positively. Gallup polls found that more than 40 percent of voters in the 2018 midterms said health care was their top concern, and that it was a major factor for swing voters.
McCarthy is far from alone in his view. Multiple GOP sources are reportedly saying they can’t fathom why the president would want to re-litigate an issue that has been a clear loser for Republicans.
A senior House Republican aide texted: “Members feel like [the Mueller report announcement] was great and Trump stepped all over it that message with the Obamacare lawsuit announcement.”
They’re also exasperated about Trump’s substance-free declaration that Republicans will become “The Party of Healthcare” — Republicans aren’t united on health care, and have been unable to advance a replacement for the ACA.
All this is because the Justice Department changed its position Monday night in a lawsuit filed by Republican attorneys general.
Those state officials want the courts to strike down the ACA’s individual mandate, and throw out the rest of the law along with it. A district court judge agreed with them in December, ruling the entire law invalid.
DOJ had been arguing that the courts should toss the mandate and protections for people with pre-existing conditions, while letting the rest of the law stand. But it now says it agrees with the lower court’s ruling striking down the entire ACA.
If the DOJ gets its way, the ACA’s insurance exchanges and Medicaid expansion would vanish, stripping health care coverage from more than 20 million people. And the loss of unrelated ACA provisions would reverberate throughout the health care system.
As Politico’s Eliana Johnson first reported, “The Trump administration’s surprising move to invalidate Obamacare on Monday came despite the opposition of two key cabinet secretaries: Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Attorney General Bill Barr.”
Republican officials are privately blaming Trump’s chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, domestic policy chief, Joe Grogan, and the acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, Russ Vought, for engineering the new position.
“I’m appalled,” Sen. Susan Collins told Axios. “I think the Justice Department has a duty to defend the duly enacted laws.”
“I’m going to be writing to the attorney general to express my views on this,” she said. “I was surprised and disappointed. If the president disagrees with a law, then he should should ask Congress to repeal or change that law. He should not try to get rid of it through the courts.”
Several Republican senators said they were surprised Trump spent most of the Senate GOP lunch on Tuesday on health care. Trump led with health care and went back to it several times during the meeting. “He’s clearly very passionate about it,” Sen. John Kennedy said. “It was one of few times at these things the president spoke more than the senators.”