Senators on Monday made the future of the Affordable Care Act a central issue in the first day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Judge Amy Coney Barrett.
Democrats claimed Republicans were rushing Barrett’s confirmation to ensure she is seated by the time the Supreme Court hears a case that could determine the ACA’s fate on Nov. 10. Republicans argued that the legal issues are different than prior cases and Barrett should not commit to ruling a certain way on any specific case.
Democrats presented a unified message, arguing that Barrett’s confirmation would mean the demise of the Affordable Care Act and eliminate protections for patients with preexisting conditions during a pandemic.
“[My constituents] too see her as a judicial torpedo aimed at their essential protections,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said.
If Barrett is confirmed the court would be tilted 6-3 in favor of Republican-appointed and generally conservative justices, but legal experts say votes on the California v. Texas case may not break along party lines.
Former Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said that Barrett’s comments criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts for voting to uphold the ACA in the 2012 case National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius do not indicate that she would vote to strike down the ACA in its entirety because the legal issues in the two cases are separate.
“Democrats and their allies should not claim to know how any judge would rule in any particular case,” Grassley said.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), an adamant critic of the ACA, said the Senate should make decisions on the future of healthcare policy, not the courts.
“Our Democratic colleagues simply want a promise from a judicial nominee will work to implement their policy vision of healthcare. That is not a judge’s job,” Cruz said.
However, Democrats including Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) highlighted a tweet by President Donald Trump from before he was elected to argue that a willingness to overturn the ACA was a litmus test for candidates to receive Trump’s nomination.
“If I win the presidency, my judicial appointments will do the right thing unlike Bush’s appointee John Roberts on ObamaCare,” Trump tweeted on June 26, 2015.
During the hearing, Trump tweeted his promise to protect individuals with preexisting conditions and provide “much better healthcare at a much lower cost,” though he and Vice President Mike Pence have refused to explain how they would accomplish that.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s confirmation Thursday, which could pave the way for a potential floor vote before the November election.