Barr Says Justice Department Will Back Trump’s Push to Overturn Obamacare

May 9, 2020 Updated: May 9, 2020

Attorney General William Barr said that the Justice Department will take the same position as the President in urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare.

Barr made the comments during an interview with CBS’s Catherine Herridge on Thursday when he was asked to share his position on the Trump administration’s push to overturn Obamacare.

“We had an opportunity, all the stakeholders in the administration, to discuss this, and the Department is going to be taking the position as the president states,” Barr told Herridge.

The ACA is currently being challenged in a pair of appeals that reached the Supreme Court earlier this year. The top court in March agreed to take up one of the requests—the one by Democratic-led states—which asked the justices to review a decision from a lower court that found a key tenet, known as the “individual mandate,” of the ACA unconstitutional.

The House of Representatives also filed a similar appeal in early January asking the court to review the lower court’s decision.

The House and Democratic-led states said the court’s consideration is necessary because of the uncertainty the lower court’s decision has on health insurance and the health care marketplace, as well as for millions of Americans who have purchased coverage under Obamacare (pdf).

The Trump administration, which has declined to defend the ACA, has, on the other hand, asked the Supreme Court to not take up the cases because the district court hasn’t yet decided on the question of severability. It said that the court should defer a review of the decision until after the case has completed its proceedings in the lower courts.

The Supreme Court will hear the case next term, which begins in the fall.

Trump and Republicans have taken steps to weaken the ACA in an effort to ultimately repeal and replace the Obama-era law with more lower-cost options. They say the ACA represented government overreach and increased the cost of health care. Meanwhile, Democrats have vowed to strengthen the law following the Republicans’ efforts to invalidate the law through this case.

On Wednesday, Trump doubled down on his vow to terminate the ACA, saying that it failed to live up to what it promises and is a “disaster.”

“Just so you understand, Obamacare is a disaster, but we’ve run it very well. And we’ve made it barely acceptable. It was a disaster under President Obama, and it’s very bad healthcare,” Trump said.

“What we want to do is terminate it and give great healthcare. And we’ll have great healthcare, including preexisting conditions,” he added.

The administration is yet to unveil their plan to replace the ACA, a move which has attracted much criticism from Democrats. Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar said earlier in the year that the Obamacare replacement proposal will not come until after the Supreme Court rules on the pending lawsuit challenging the health care law.

During the interview, Herridge asked Barr whether he was concerned that the Trump administration’s move could mean millions of Americans could be stripped of their health care in the middle of a pandemic.

“Well, the case isn’t gonna be argued until October,” Barr replied. “And the president’s made clear that he strongly supports coverage of preexisting conditions. And there will be coverage of preexisting conditions. And, you know, he expects to fix and replace Obamacare with a better health care system.”

Trump’s position has been slammed by House Democrat leaders, who argue that the ACA is necessary to protect the “health and economic security in America” especially during the CCP virus public health crisis.

“The President’s insistence on doubling down on his senseless and cruel argument in court to destroy the ACA and every last one of its benefits and protections is unconscionable, particularly in the middle of a pandemic,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a statement on Wednesday.

The House filed a brief (pdf) supporting the Democratic-led states in the Supreme Court case on Wednesday, arguing that the Republican’s claim that the individual mandate is not severable from the rest of the ACA is “baseless” and “implausible.”

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