Democratic lawmakers pressed Attorney General William Barr in a contentious hearing Tuesday over the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that, if it prevails, would cause millions of Americans to lose their health care coverage.
“If you’re successful, 12 million people nationally and 750,000 people in my home state of Pennsylvania who have coverage under the Medicaid expansion would also likely lose that coverage,” Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. “Am I correct in that, sir?”
Barr responded with his own question.
“Do you think it’s likely we are going to prevail?” Barr asked.
Cartwright countered that Barr is devoting the Justice Department’s “scarce resources” to the case.
“I’m just saying that if you think it’s such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about,” Barr said. “Let the courts do their job.”
In a legal brief filed in March, the Justice Department signaled support of a recent district court decision in Texas that ruled the ACA unconstitutional. The ruling was immediately appealed and is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court. The Trump administration, which initially said Obamacare’s insurance protections should be struck down as unconstitutional, is now seeking to overturn the ACA in its entirety.
Cartwright noted that if the law was struck down, millions of people who get their coverage through the ACA marketplace would lose their coverage and “tens of millions more would see their premiums skyrocket.”
Later in the hearing, the attorney general again dismissed criticism of the lawsuit.
“I hear members of the committee basically saying, you’ve taken this legal position, it can have bad consequences... bad policy consequences,” Barr said.
“As an attorney general you take positions based on the law, and you litigate them in court and the court makes the decision,” he continued. “So if this was such a hokey position to take, what are you worried about?”
“What am I worried about?” Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., asked. “What I’m worried about are the people I work for: the American people. And the people you work for, sir. And it’s our duty around here to look out for their best interests as public servants.”
Barr said that the administration is “very worried” about them.
“The president has made clear that he wants a strong health care legislation and he wants to protect preexisting conditions,” he said.
Crist shot back: “Worries about it so much so that you’re pursuing a case that would take it away from them. The irony of that is rich.”
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