Obama Defends Obamacare, Attacks Republicans as Challenge in Supreme Court Looms

March 12, 2020 Updated: March 12, 2020
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Former President Barack Obama is defending the Obamacare law as election season heats up and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear a legal challenge about a court ruling that invalidated his signature domestic legislation.

“It’s been 10 years since we passed the Affordable Care Act. With your help, it’s the closest we’ve ever come to universal coverage in America,” Obama said in a 90-second video produced by his allies at Protect Our Care, a project of the well-heeled left-wing group Sixteen Thirty Fund.

“There are people alive today because of what you did,” he said, without substantiating the claim.

But the law is under threat because Republicans “will keep trying both in Congress and in the courts to rip away the care that millions of Americans rely on,” he said.

“So even as we celebrate, we commit ourselves to protecting the progress we’ve made until we finish the job for good with quality affordable coverage for every single American.”

Protect Our Care is run by Brad Woodhouse, who worked previously as communications director for the Democratic National Committee and as a strategist for both Obama presidential campaigns. Woodhouse is credited with helping to build the political infrastructure used to promote the passage of Obamacare and to defend the program after it was enacted.

Republicans are determined to undermine Obamacare, according to Woodhouse.

“President Trump continues to deliberately sabotage people’s health care out of his own spitefulness, and we are going to make sure the public is constantly aware of every move this Administration makes until Congressional Republicans stand up and make them stop,” he said previously.

Protect Our Care plans a bus tour to campaign in the 2020 battleground states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina, The Hill newspaper reports.

The roadshow begins March 15 in St. Paul, Minnesota. There will also be a panel discussion in the nation’s capital on March 23, at which Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and health care activists will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the signing of Obamacare into law.

In his campaign for the presidency, former Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat like Obama, claims credit for helping to enact the law that critics say has caused health care premiums to skyrocket while limiting consumer choice. Biden has said he will defend the law if he wins the White House.

Biden’s opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), has promised to substitute his expensive proposed “Medicare for All” program for Obamacare, establishing a single-payer system and abolishing private health insurance. Obama referred to Medicare for All as a “good” idea during the midterm elections of 2018, while campaigning for congressional Democrats.

The Supreme Court, which said March 12 that it would be banning visitors to its building in Washington until further notice to stop the spread of the coronavirus, announced earlier this month that it will review a lower court ruling that partially invalidated the Obamacare statute.

The case will likely be heard in the court’s new term that begins in October, which suggests a decision won’t be rendered until after the elections in November. The decision to take the case seems certain to revive health care as a major issue on the campaign trail this year.

The case goes back to Dec. 14, 2018, when Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas struck down the so-called Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in its entirety.

Before that, in NFIB v. Sebelius (2012), the Supreme Court deemed the mandate that compelled Americans to buy health insurance a valid exercise of congressional taxing power because it generated revenue, rejecting the government’s argument that the mandate could be justified under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.

Because the mandate penalty was reduced to zero by Congress in 2017, it no longer would generate revenue and couldn’t be viewed as an exercise of congressional taxing authority.

Zeroing-out the mandate penalty “sawed off the last leg” Obamacare stood on, O’Connor ruled. “The court finds the individual mandate ‘is essential to’ and inseverable from ‘the other provisions of’” the statute, he held in Texas v. United States.

The Trump administration supports O’Connor’s ruling.

At the time, President Donald Trump applauded it on Twitter. “As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions,” he wrote.

On Dec. 18, 2019, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the striking-down of the mandate, but remanded the case to O’Connor to decide if the rest of the statute should be invalidated.