WASHINGTON — Democrats in the U.S. Senate are supporting a resolution to protect former President Barack Obama’s health care law from an effort to have the statute ruled unconstitutional.
Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced a resolution Thursday asking for the Senate Legal Counsel to represent the legislative chamber in Texas v. United States — a lawsuit involving West Virginia and 19 other states — in defense of “Obamacare” and its provisions, specifically the guarantee of health insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.
Forty-nine senators — 47 Democrats and two independents — are backing the resolution.
Manchin announced the resolution alongside Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Patty Murray of Washington. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., also attended the news conference.
“This is a life-or-death issue,” Manchin said. “We’re asking all of our friends and colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle to join with us. To basically join with us to stand up and speak out against this horrible, horrible position that the attorneys’ general office has taken in my state, in Claire’s state, but also the Department of Justice.”
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is the Republican candidate for Senate, as is Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley in his respective state, who will face McCaskill in November. The U.S. Department of Justice has said it would not defend the constitutionality of the federal health care law in the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs argue the federal health care law is unconstitutional because the individual mandate, which required individuals to purchase health insurance, was repealed in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.
Manchin said 800,000 West Virginians would be at risk of losing insurance coverage if protections for pre-existing conditions were eliminated.
“400,000 (people) directly would not be able to buy insurance,” he said. “It’s just inhumane.”
Manchin also attacked Morrisey for supporting the lawsuit.
“He wants to repeal the entire thing,” he said. “Tickled to death that they have this vehicle … it’s unconscionable. Really unconscionable, and this is what we are fighting about.”
Morrisey said earlier this month he supports repealing the federal health care law, but there should be protections in place for people with pre-existing conditions.
Morrisey campaign spokesman Nathan Brand said Manchin had opportunities last year to improve health care with the measures to repeal and replace “Obamacare” as well as the tax bill; the senator voted against all related legislation.
“Sen. Joe Manchin continues to put the interest of Washington liberals like Chuck Schumer and his radical special-interest donors ahead of the health care of West Virginians,” Brand said in a statement. “When President Trump asked Sen. Manchin to fix the broken health care system by repealing and replacing Obamacare, Joe sided with Washington liberals and said no.”
McCaskill said health care will be a significant issue in the midterm election.
“I did 53 town halls last year. Fifty-three town halls, and most of those town halls were in counties where I’m not very popular. Where Donald Trump won by more than 30 points,” she said. “And you know the common theme — you know the common theme of all of those town halls? Health care, health care, health care, health care. It is the number one issue in my state, and I would venture a guess it is the number one issue in this whole country.”
Manchin said in terms of a long-term solution, the Senate should be willing to consider all options.
“We have to look realistically, also, what it does to the population base, not only just in each one of our respective states but the entire country,” he said. “But we’re talking about something that is real, right now in front of us. We can fix what we’ve got and that’s what we should be doing.”
Manchin also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions Thursday expressing his disappointment over the department’s lack of effort to protect the law.
“Without attempting to understand the full impact of their actions, DOJ’s reckless and irresponsible conclusion that it is not obligated to defend the constitutionality of the ACA provisions that guarantee protections for people with pre-existing conditions is extremely concerning,” he said.
The federal health care law is also an issue on Manchin’s mind regarding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Manchin has said individuals with pre-existing conditions would be at risk of losing coverage if the next justice is against the statute.