Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner weaved his way into Congress on a singular issue: His fervent opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). He once called the ACA “the worst government boondoggle” in American history and said that the government should not provide coverage protections for people with pre-existing medical conditions.
In February 2018, a group of Republican states — with the support of the Trump administration — filed a lawsuit to repeal the ACA altogether. That lawsuit is expected to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in November.
As The Hill reported in August 2019:
Asked if he supported the lawsuit, Gardner replied: “That’s the court’s decision. If the Democrats want to stand for an unconstitutional law, I guess that’s their choice.”
Gardner was again asked about his position on the ACA lawsuit back in March 2020. Again, from The Hill newspaper:
The office of Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) did not respond to a request for comment on if he supports the lawsuit.
And don’t forget Gardner’s interview on July 1 with Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio, in which the Yuma Republican dodged direct questions about his support of the ACA lawsuit 6 TIMES!
Why are we reminding you of this? Because as Igor Bobic of The Huffington Post reports, Gardner voted today to advance legislation that would cut off financial support for the Department of Justice’s anti-ACA lawsuit:
Collins, Ernst, & Gardner — 3 vulnerable GOPers — vote with Democrats to advance Schumer’s bill cutting off DOJ support for anti-Obamacare lawsuit
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) October 1, 2020
This maneuver pushed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer was previewed by POLITICO on Tuesday. It was designed to force vulnerable Republicans to take an on-the-record vote on the ACA lawsuit, and it worked. A total of six Republican Senators voted ‘YES’ on this proposal (Collins, Ernst, Gardner, McSally, Murkowski, and Sullivan). Senator Lindsey Graham — another increasingly-endangered Republican — was listed as “Not Voting.”
This procedure put Gardner in a tough spot as he fights for his political life with about one week left until ballots start going out in Colorado. Gardner could a) Vote ‘NO’ and re-affirm that he supports the ACA repeal lawsuit, or b) Vote ‘YES’ and start trying to pretend that he opposes the ACA repeal lawsuit.
Gardner apparently chose the second option, which is interesting since his recent ploy to pretend to be in favor of protecting pre-existing medical conditions failed so miserably. We’re curious to see how Gardner tries to explain today’s vote and if he attempts to claim that he is now against the ACA repeal lawsuit. Gardner could always just come out and say he opposes the lawsuit — he didn’t need today’s vote as an impetus — but that would contradict everything he’s said (and not said) about the lawsuit in the last two years.
Gardner knows that the ACA is popular in Colorado, so it’s bad politics for him to keep calling for its demise. But Gardner also backed himself into a corner on this issue a LONG time ago — opposing the ACA is a foundational piece of his political narrative. And if he says he now opposes the lawsuit, then it makes it weird for him to continue to support a new Supreme Court Justice who may soon be voting on said lawsuit.
As for Schumer’s proposal, it ultimately failed to get enough votes to invoke cloture, so the measure is dead. The votes are now public record, however, and Gardner is going to have to figure out how to spin this favorably.
Good luck with that.