Republican lawmakers have been mostly silent on Friday’s court ruling that the Affordable Care Act, known commonly as Obamacare, is unconstitutional. Democrats, however, have said they’ll hold the GOP to its commitment to retain popular provisions of the law, such as guaranteed coverage for those with pre-existing health conditions.
"The GOP spent all last year pretending to support people with pre-existing conditions while quietly trying to remove that support in the courts,'' Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York said in a tweet Saturday. "Next year, we will force votes to expose their lies.''
U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat who will assume the speaker's role next year, said the House "will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the lifesaving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans' effort to destroy'' the law.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Texas ruled Friday that a change in tax law last year eliminating a penalty for not having health insurance invalidated the entire ACA. The decision is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the ACA will remain the law during the appeal.
U.S. President Donald Trump had promised during his presidential campaign to dismantle the ACA, a program that made affordable health insurance available to millions of Americans.
The president took to Twitter Friday night: "Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!"
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the judge's decision "vindicates President Trump's position that Obamacare is unconstitutional. Once again, the President calls on Congress to replace Obamacare and act to protect people with pre-existing conditions and provide Americans with quality, affordable health care."
Americans with pre-existing conditions, before ACA, faced either high premiums or an inability to access health insurance at all.
Schumer said in a statement Friday that the ruling “seems to be based on faulty legal reasoning, and hopefully it will be overturned. Americans who care about working families must do all they can to prevent this district court ruling from becoming law."
"Today's misguided ruling will not deter us," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the leader of an alliance of states opposing the lawsuit, said in a statement Friday. "Our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and well-being for all Americans."
New law unlikely for now
Some legal observers believe Congress is unlikely to pass a new law while the case is in the courts. Many senior Republican lawmakers have said they did not plan to also strike down provisions such as pre-existing condition coverage when they repealed the law's fines for people who can afford coverage but remain uninsured.
If the case reaches the Supreme Court, it would be the third time the high court considers a challenge to ACA provisions. The law's opponents lost the first two cases.
Polls have regularly shown wide public support for the guarantee of health insurance coverage regardless of pre-existing health conditions, an issue Democrats successfully leveraged in last month's midterm elections to win control of the House of Representatives.