UPDATE: This lede from The Washington Post summarizes the story well:
President Trump insists on the campaign trail that he wants to protect insurance coverage for people with preexisting conditions. His legal team just told the Supreme Court otherwise.
NBC News reported late last night, and the rude shock despite this being a fully expected development reverberates as the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the health and economic security of Americans:
The Trump administration is asking the Supreme Court to wipe out Obamacare, arguing that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the rest of the law must be struck down with it.
The late-night brief, filed Thursday in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, carries major implications for the presidential election. If the justices agree, it would cost an estimated 20 million Americans their insurance coverage and nullify protections for pre-existing conditions.
The Trump administration’s brief comes as the U.S. has recorded more than 120,000 deaths from COVID-19, with nearly 2.5 million confirmed cases. On Wednesday, the nation hit a new record for the highest daily total of new infections reported with more than 45,500.
The brief filed by Trump administration seeks to close the loop on the Republican legislative attempt to repeal (forget “replace,” that’s so 2015) the Affordable Care Act during the period of total GOP control in Washington from 2017-2019. As readers know, despite Sen. Cory Gardner’s steadfast support for every ACA repeal bill put before him for a vote, Republicans could not summon up the political will to follow through on their promises to get rid of “Obamacare” with the painful consequences of that action fully in view. But they did manage to pass a zeroing out of the individual mandate tax penalty, and that chipping away at the foundation of the law is the basis for today’s argument that the ACA can’t legally exist without the mandate.
The point? This is all happening because Republicans wanted it to happen. They kicked the leg out from the proverbial stool, and are now arguing their actions should kill the entire law–somehow without Republicans having to take political responsibility.
But as the New York Times reported earlier this week, that’s just not going to fly in 2020:
Republicans are increasingly worried that their decade-long push to repeal the Affordable Care Act will hurt them in the November elections, as coronavirus cases spike around the country and millions of Americans who have lost jobs during the pandemic lose their health coverage as well…
Republicans have long said their goal is to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act but have yet to agree on an alternative. This week’s back-to-back developments — Ms. Pelosi’s bill announcement on Wednesday, followed on Thursday by the administration’s legal filing — has put Republicans in a difficult spot, strategists say.
“Politically, it’s pretty dumb to be talking about how we need to repeal Obamacare in the middle of a pandemic,” [Pols emphasis] said Joel White, a Republican strategist who specializes in health policy and has presented legislative proposals to House and Senate Republicans and the White House. “We need quick solutions here; we need stuff that we can do tomorrow, because our countrymen are hurting.”
Well folks, it appears that the only thing Republicans in Washington are prepared to “do tomorrow” is strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety, with no plan to remediate the resulting loss of health coverage millions of Americans would face after that decision. It’s generally agreed today that the Republican attacks on health coverage after Trump took office played a big role in the electoral backlash against the GOP in 2018.
Going down this road in 2020, in the middle of a global pandemic with an election fast approaching isn’t just grievous policy malpractice. It’s a political catastrophe for Republicans like Cory Gardner, who has invested so much in trying to appear responsive to the country’s needs in the current emergency by voting for economic stimulus measures he decried when a Democrat was President. It is not an exaggeration to state that Gardner’s entire career in federal office, in Congress and in the U.S. Senate, has been built around opposition to the Affordable Care Act–with an accompanying promise that the ACA would be “replaced” with “something better.”
Everything Cory Gardner has promised for ten years on health care lies in ruins today. Gardner, along with his party, are revealed to have no health care agenda other than the destruction by any means necessary of Barack Obama’s legacy. Americans caught in the crossfire of the GOP’s political vendetta, including hundreds of thousands in Colorado who have benefited or even had their lives saved by the Affordable Care Act, are the success stories Republicans want to condemn to the status quo ante.
When they say elections matter, this is what they mean. This is life and death stuff, and the consequences have perhaps never been more starkly apparent to Americans than they are today.