Fearing backlash from voters, GOP senators quietly rally against Trump-backed Obamacare lawsuit

“The time frame they’ve chosen to pursue is a toxic one because of the election cycle," one Republican senator says

By Alex Henderson

Published April 1, 2019 1:44PM (EDT)

Mitch McConnell (Getty/Alex Wong)
Mitch McConnell (Getty/Alex Wong)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

When Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives with a net gain of 40 seats in the 2018 midterms, it became obvious that Republicans in Congress would not have the votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, in 2019 or 2020. But President Donald Trump is attacking the ACA via the courts, declaring his support for the anti-ACA lawsuit Texas v. Azar (which asserts that the entire law should be struck down as unconstitutional). And The Hill is reporting that Republicans in the Senate are fearful that they will pay a dear price politically next year because of the lawsuit.

Numerous Democrats campaigned on universal health care in 2018, and after the blue wave in the House, Republicans who were smart realized that health care would be a good issue for them to avoid as much as possible this year. Alexander Bolton and Peter Sullivan are reporting in The Hill that “Senate Republicans are privately rooting against President Trump in his court battle to strike down the Affordable Care Act” because they fear their party will “pay for it at the ballot box.”

A senior Republican senator, quoted anonymously, told The Hill, “If you’re looking strictly at political outcomes, it could be argued that a lot of members don’t want to see this struck down, because they don’t want to deal with the fallout.”

On Tuesday, March 26, Trump bragged that “the Republican Party will soon be known as the party of health care.” But his words fell painfully flat because Texas v. Azar, which the president is passionately supporting, would abolish the ACA in its entirety without any law to replace it—and would eliminate protections for millions of American with preexisting health conditions (which, in the minds of insurance companies, could be anything from asthma to diabetes to sleep apnea to skin cancer). According to a new Urban Institute study, abolishing the ACA without anything to replace it would cause 20 million Americans to lose their health insurance.

Another Republican senator interviewed anonymously for the Bolton/Sullivan piece admitted that Trump’s anti-ACA strategy is “not a good one for us.” The senator complained, “If they were really working to build something that had legs, you would have thought there were some conversations prior to Tuesday, and there were none.”

According to that senator, Republicans in the Senate were “caught flatfooted” when Trump declared his support for Texas v. Azar last week—including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

A third anonymous GOP senator described the lawsuit as political suicide for Republicans, telling The Hill, “The time frame they’ve chosen to pursue is a toxic one because of the election cycle that we’re already in. Can we find something where the Democrats who are in the majority in the House could agree with the 60 senators in the Senate? I can’t imagine that’s the case.”

That third Republican senator also told The Hill, “Sometimes, it’s easy to write off the Affordable Care Act issues as political, and certainly, there’s politics to it. But what I’ve discovered (is that) it’s a very personal issue to thousands and thousands of people, and they’re worried to death about what the changes might do to their family members.”

Alex Henderson

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