On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr was questioned at a congressional hearing by Dem. Rep Lucy McBath of Georgia, who attacked him for supporting President Trump’s position against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) and used her own status as a breast cancer survivor to buttress her case. When Barr responded that he had two children of his own who are cancer survivors, McBath cut him off, iterating that his position was “playing politics.”
McBath began her query of the attorney general:
Sir, just a few months ago, in May, you said that you would be taking the president’s position in urging the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act. When asked if you will still take that position, even if it means, and I quote, “Stripping millions of Americans of their healthcare in the middle of a pandemic,” you stated that the case would not be argued until October and that the president expects to fix and replace Obamacare with a better system.
Attorney General Barr, let’s be very, very clear: as public health officials and data have shown us, this pandemic is simply not going away. Just last week it was reported that one hospital was planning on sending coronavirus patients home to die due to limited resources to treat them. So we’re still facing an extremely critical and extremely serious situation. And even if you expect the president to figure out a new plan by October, the president has not yet put in place another system, nor is there any guarantee that he will do so by October as you “expect.”
So when you say you expect the president to figure out a new plan, you are taking a risk with millions of Americans’ lives. You are risking the lives of millions. People who will not be covered for preexisting conditions if the Supreme Court agrees with your position. Civil servants in your own department have disagreed with you on this matter. In fact, I’m introducing a statement by one of the lead attorneys on the ACA case, Joel McElvaine, who resigned in protest when your department refused to defend the law as it is required.
In my district, the sixth district of Georgia, congressional district, there are over 300,000 people that have preexisting conditions, and I sir, am one of them: a two-time breast cancer survivor. Our state is continuing to battle hard against a resurgence in COVID-19 cases.
So I’m asking you, sir, not to gamble with American lives. Not to gamble with my life. And I’d like you to confirm that if the president has no other plan in place by October, you will reverse course and drop your position that — I quote you directly — “the entire ACA must fall.”
The attorney general responded by noting that he has two children who are cancer survivors.
“I have two children who are cancer survivors, so I feel very strongly about this issue as a matter of policy,” said Barr. “And I believe that the president’s made clear that he will ensure—”
But before Barr could finish his response, McBath interjected, “Sir, please answer my question. Will you stop playing politics with Americans health care in the middle of a pandemic?”
“I’m not playing politics,” said Barr. “I’m a lawyer. I’m not in charge of healthcare policy.”
“Will you reverse your course?” said McBath, shouting over him. “Will you reverse your course and make sure that millions of Americans like me, that depend on healthcare and treatment to stay alive, will you reverse your course to make sure that we have the ability to be able to live in this country freely with quality healthcare?”
“People will have the healthcare protection and it will be accomplished either if I lose — if the government loses the case…” Barr replied calmly.
“I take this as a no,” McBath said, again before he could finish.
“…if the Supreme Court strikes it down…,” Barr continued.
“I take this as a no,” McBath repeated.
“…based on history…,” said Barr.
“I’d like to go on,” said McBath.
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