CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote Wednesday on a resolution denouncing President Donald Trump’s administration and the Justice Department for not defending the federal health care law in a lawsuit brought forward by a coalition of states, in which West Virginia is among the plaintiffs.
The vote will come after Senate Democrats on Tuesday introduced a similar resolution, and both follow President Donald Trump’s decision to delay a vote on health care legislation until after next year’s election.
The House’s resolution would condemn the Justice Department for supporting a federal judge’s decision regarding “Obamacare;” attorneys said last week it supported the December ruling by Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas on the health care law. The department previously stayed out of Texas v. United States.
A coalition of 20 states, including West Virginia, brought forward a lawsuit arguing the health care law is unconstitutional, noting the repeal of the individual mandate provision in the 2017 tax law.
The House’s non-binding resolution would also ask the Department of Justice to reverse its decision and protect the law, including provisions regarding coverage for pre-existing conditions. The chamber debated the resolution Tuesday.
All 47 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus — including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin — cosponsored a similar resolution asking for the department to reverse its decision, which lawmakers announced Tuesday.
“Republicans failed to pass any of their health care plans in Congress, so they’re trying to repeal health care in court. This reeks of desperation, and they have no backup plan,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said. “The Republicans are for repeal. They have no replace. They have nothing.”
New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen is the measure’s leading sponsor.
Manchin said in a statement the federal government should protect the current law as there is no backup if “Obamacare” is struck down in court.
“The Justice Department has not only refused to defend hundreds of thousands of West Virginians with pre-existing conditions but gone even further to argue against the constitutionality of the entire Affordable Care Act. Our first priority now should be to protect the current healthcare law at all costs,” he said.
“If the Affordable Care Act is overturned in court, there is no replacement or plan B. This will put millions of Americans at risk of losing their health insurance, including the thousands of West Virginians who gained health insurance through the Medicaid expansion, and thousands more who gained insurance through the state health exchange.”
The state Department of Health and Human Resources reported Monday more than 160,000 people are enrolled in the state’s Medicaid expansion program.
As for Trump, his decision to push the health care debate to 2021 comes after saying last week the Republican Party would be known as “the party of health care.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said he told the president Senate Republicans do not have any interest in a health care bill while Democrats control the House.
“I made it clear to him that we were not going to be doing that in the Senate. He did say, as he later tweeted, he accepted that and that he would be developing a plan that he would take to the American people during the 2020 campaign, and suggested that is what he would be advocating in a second term if there were a Republican Congress,” he said.
Republicans failed multiple times in 2017 to repeal and replace “Obamacare.”
McConnell added he is not worried “Obamacare” will be struck down “anytime soon” as the matter continues to be debated.
“There’s no point in pushing a panic button. The court system takes a long time to resolve these issues,” he said.
Twenty-one states are appealing the December ruling to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. O’Connor allowed Wisconsin to drop out of the challenges to “Obamacare” in a Tuesday decision.