Democrats from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to former President Barack Obama announced this weekend that their first priority after the holidays will be to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which was declared unconstitutional (again) Friday by a federal district court judge.
Judge Reed O’Connor again struck down the ACA (better known as Obamacare) individual mandate on Friday evening, but unlike in other earlier rulings finding the same conclusion, O'Connor noted that he felt the individual mandate could not be severed from the rest of the law, Roll Call reports. That means the full Affordable Care Act is now unconstitutional (though the act will remain in place pending appeal, likely all the way to the Supreme Court).
O'Connor also noted that Chief Justice John Roberts' contention that Obamacare's individual mandate amounted to a "tax" on Americans did not save the law.
Schumer spoke out on Meet the Press Sunday morning, pledging that his top priority when congress returns from its holiday recess will be to pass a law preserving the Affordable Care Act, even though Schumer remains in the minority in the Senate. The Democrats only picked up the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections.
“It’s an awful, awful ruling, and we’re going to fight this tooth-and-nail, and the first thing we’re going to do when we get back there in the Senate is urge — put a vote on the floor urging an intervention in the case,” Schumer told Meet the Press.
“A lot of this depends on congressional intent. If a majority of the House and a majority of the Senate say that this case should be overturned, it’ll have a tremendous effect on the appeal,” Schumer added.
Presumably, Schumer will resurface a bill from earlier in the summer, which, if passed, would allow Senate Democrats to file their own motions in the ongoing federal litigation over ACA, "instructing" the court on how certain Democrats viewed the litigation when they were voting on it back during the Obama administration — but it's a long shot.
Even the left-leaning Huffington Post expressed reservations about what Schumer can do. "The Senate could pass a nonbinding resolution expressing the body’s support for why the decision ought to be overturned, or simply clarifying its intent when it repealed Obamacare’s individual mandate," they reported Sunday.
Former President Obama also weighed in on the issue, according to Fox News, reiterating to potential Obamacare enrollees that the law has not been struck down for good and that he believes the Affordable Care Act will survive the appeals process.
“You might have heard about a federal court decision on a Republican lawsuit trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety,” the former president said in a post on Facebook and on Twitter. “As this decision makes its way through the courts, which will take months, if not years, the law remains in place and will likely stay that way.”
Today is the last day of open enrollment. That means it’s the deadline to make sure you and the people you love have health insurance in 2019. So head over to https://t.co/ob1Ynoesod to get covered! Here’s what else you need to know today about health care: pic.twitter.com/gosn6c6uCa— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) December 15, 2018
Although the Friday ruling is a win for Republicans, it could put Obamacare front and center in the 2020 presidential elections. The appeals process on the ruling is expected to take as long as two years, putting healthcare front and center in the minds of American voters just as the final months of the 2020 campaign are coming to a close. That is not necessarily good news for the GOP; Democrats have been successful in using catastrophic predictions about healthcare to motivate voters to the polls.