On First Day of Hearings, Republicans Continue to Run Scared From Barrett’s Record on Health Care

10.12.20

On First Day of Hearings, Republicans Continue to Run Scared From Barrett’s Record on Health Care

On day one of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing, Republican senators played defense on Barrett’s clear record of supporting lawsuits that would gut the Affordable Care Act. Just as Donald Trump and Vice President Pence shrunk away from defending Barrett’s record on Roe v. Wade during nationally televised debates, Republicans who have themselves supported ending the ACA and protections for people with preexisting conditions spent the first day of hearings arguing there was no way their preferred nominee would ever support such a position.

During the hearings, Sen. Grassley called the implication that Barrett could vote to end the Affordable Care Act “outrageous.” Sen. Cruz, who has repeatedly voted to end protections for people with preexisting conditions, said, “Every single member of the Senate agrees that pre-existing conditions can and should be protected. Period.” Sen. Crapo said, “The standard arguments: … she is going to change all of the laws in the country that protect people’s healthcare. … She’s not.” Their arguments were in line with Sen. McConnell’s claim that Barrett could not possibly support overturning the ACA because she has a large family.

Senate Republicans even went so far as to tell reporters today that the health care repeal lawsuit, which is supported by President Trump and the Republican Attorneys General of 17 states, is frivolous and nothing to worry about. Notably, Sen. Hawley, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signed on to the lawsuit when he was the Missouri Attorney General.

Republicans are running scared because they know they have to defend the deeply unpopular record of a nominee who’s already historically unpopular.

Reality check: the threat Barrett poses to the ACA could not be clearer.

  • Amy Coney Barrett has sharply criticized both major rulings that upheld the ACA: NFIB v. Sebelius (2012) and King v. Burwell (2015).
  • Of the 2012 decision, she wrote: “Chief Justice Roberts pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.” She went on to suggest that Justice Scalia’s view in dissent, that the entire ACA should have been thrown out, was the correct approach according to the “statutory textualism to which most originalists subscribe.”
  • In 2015, she praised the dissent in King v. Burwell, saying it had “the better of the legal argument.” Had the dissenters prevailed in that case, the non-partisan Urban Institute estimated that more than 8 million people would have lost health coverage and premiums would have gone up by 35% in 34 states.
  • Trump himself vowed to appoint justices who would overturn the ACA.
  • Republicans are currently supporting a lawsuit to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act, which would take away health care from 23 million people and abolish protections for the 133 million people with preexisting conditions.

For more on Barrett’s record and what’s at stake see Demand Justice’s full factsheet.

Republicans’ position on the Affordable Care Act is deeply unpopular.

  • NYT/Siena College: 57% support the Affordable Care Act and just 38% oppose it
  • Fox News: 64% want the ACA kept in place and just 32% do not.
  • Morning Consult: 56% of voters say the ACA should be improved and strengthened, while 20% say the law should be struck down; 79% of voters support health insurance protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Reuters/Ipsos: Only 39% of voters say they believe the Affordable Care Act should be repealed completely.