Republicans have spent a decade trying to kill Obamacare, but now they're worried about the harm that would do to millions of Americans.
During the second day of Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate hearing on her nomination to the United States Supreme Court, the dominant conversation was once again whether Barrett would, if confirmed, repeal the Affordable Care Act — but Republicans seem surprised that Americans are taking their threats to Obamacare seriously.
"If it were up to me, bureaucrats would not be administering health care from Washington," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) thundered during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday morning.
But other Senate Republicans continue to insist that Democrats are only drumming up false fears about repealing Obamacare.
Sen. John Thune (SD) tweeted Monday that the confirmation hearing was starting to look a lot like a "floor debate on health care," and that concern about the ACA was simply a "scare tactic."
"Dems know they can't fault Judge Barrett on her merits, so they're relying on scare tactics," Thune wrote on the platform. "The truth is, we have no idea how she will rule on any case. But we do know she'll follow the law."
Two weeks ago, Sen. John Cornyn (TX) claimed that preexisting health conditions are not as prevalent as Senate Democrats claim and that there's no need to be concerned.
On Oct. 1, Cornyn tweeted — zeroing in on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden's position during the first presidential debate — that the left "overstates the problem of pre-existing conditions to justify political control of health care."
The tweet included a link to a Wall Street Journal op-ed that falsely claims the numbers of Americans with preexisting conditions are radically lower than estimated by "the left."
But Republicans have been attempting to overturn Obamacare for years, and the consequences are well documented.
Three GOP repeal bills in 2017, which could have resulted in 32 million Americans losing their health insurance, failed. Sen. Bernie Sanders noted at the time that the American public's opposition to the bills was part of the reason for their failure.
And Republicans are currently back in court, trying to upend Obamacare again, which threatens the health care access of 100 million people.
This latest challenge to Obamacare began in February 2018, when 20 states, including 18 Republican attorneys general and two Republican governors, sued the federal government in an effort to repeal the ACA.
In April 2018, two Texas self-employed individuals joined the lawsuit, asserting that they had been required under the ACA to buy health care insurance they would not otherwise have purchased.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled the individual mandate unconstitutional in December 2019. The federal government then requested that the Supreme Court strike down provisions that they held individually harmed the plaintiffs. It asked to leave the rest of the ACA intact, sending the case back to lower courts to sort out which provisions apply.
Just after the election, on Nov. 10, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in California v. Texas, the case challenging the ACA. Barrett's vote could be a game-changer.
Barrett's personal feelings about Obamacare are clear: In a paper published in 2017, she openly criticized the Supreme Court's decision upholding the ACA, criticizing Chief Justice John Roberts for using creative but legally unjustifiable loopholes.
Barrett also publicly pushed back against the requirement under Obamacare that insurance coverage include contraception, and signed a 2015 statement of protest alongside religious leaders calling it an attack on "religious liberty."
Barrett said Tuesday that she saw the late Justice Antonin Scalia as a mentor who shaped her judicial philosophy. It's telling that Scalia had a strong voting record of opposing the ACA.
The GOP has no replacement plan in the works if the ACA is overturned, despite Trump administration claims that such a plan exists.
"I have it all ready, and it's a much better plan for you," Donald Trump said during a recent ABC News town hall. But all he's done recently with regard to health care is sign two executive orders that didn't affect actual legislation.
At the vice presidential debate last week, Mike Pence claimed: "President Trump and I have plans to improve health care and to protect preexisting conditions for every American."
But there's been no sign of any actual plan.
Large numbers of the American public want to keep Obamacare. The Kaiser Family Foundation has found that 48% of voters "have a general favorable opinion" of the ACA, with 82% of Democrats and only 12% of Republicans supporting it.
And while senators like Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Joni Ernst (R-IA) have claimed in town halls and ads that they will protect those with preexisting conditions, the facts stand starkly in contrast with that narrative.
University of Pennsylvania law professor Allison Hoffman told Kaiser Health News that none of the executive orders Trump has signed do anything to protect preexisting conditions.
"The language itself guarantees nothing near the protections in the Affordable Care Act, and such sweeping protections are only possible by congressional action, not regulation," she said.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.