House Democrats are continuing to hammer President Donald Trump on health care, the issue that helped sweep them into power in 2018.
Even as Trump seemingly backed off his vow to repeal the Affordable Care Act before the 2020 elections, House Democrats redoubled their efforts to protect it from another of his administration’s attacks: They passed a resolution on Tuesday that condemns Trump for supporting a lawsuit that would invalidate the federal health care law. The final vote was 240-186.
The resolution, introduced by first-term Rep. Colin Allred (D-TX), is a largely symbolic move that is likely to go nowhere in the Republican-led Senate. But it does exactly what Democrats want: It helps reinforce their message that despite what Trump says, their party is the “party of health care.”
“Americans are facing higher health care costs than ever, but this administration’s lawsuit would drive up prices and put coverage out of reach for thousands of Texas families,” Allred said.
Trump’s Department of Justice recently thrust health care back into the forefront of the political debate when the department wrote in a brief that it supports a recent district court decision that invalidated all of Obamacare. It was the administration’s most full-throated statement so far on eliminating the signature domestic policy achievement of Trump’s predecessor. As Vox’s Dylan Scott wrote:
So it is now the official position of President Trump’s administration that all of the ACA — the private insurance markets that cover 15 million Americans, the Medicaid expansion that covers another 15 million, and the protections for people with preexisting conditions and other regulations — should be nullified.
Trump’s problem is the Affordable Care Act is pretty popular, and Republican attempts to repeal or sabotage the law have not been. Democrats want to prioritize strengthening the law as a key part of their agenda this year. In other words, Democrats are delighted Trump wants to fight them on health care.
House Democrats’ agenda on health care, briefly explained
A number of contenders seeking the Democratic nomination for president in 2020 have come out in favor of Medicare-for-all — thrusting ambitious ideas about expanding health care access into the national conversation. While House leadership has given its blessing to committee hearings on those progressive proposals, strengthening Obamacare is clearly a much bigger priority for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Vox’s Dylan Scott explained the particulars of how the recently introduced House bill to strengthen the ACA works:
It expands the tax credits available under the law, both reducing costs for lower-income families and expanding eligibility so middle-class Americans can receive federal assistance.
It creates a national reinsurance program to offset high medical bills for insurers and thereby keep premium increases in check.
It rolls back Trump actions expanding skimpier health insurance plans, giving states the freedom to undermine the law’s benefits requirements, and cutting enrollment outreach funding.
Democrats know any bill they write to try to strengthen the ACA likely won’t get much play in the Senate, where Republicans joined Trump in an effort to repeal the health care law in 2017. (That attempt was ultimately defeated by Republicans who defected, including Sens. Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and John McCain (AZ), but the balance of power in the upper chamber has shifted even more in the GOP’s favor since then.)
But Democrats in the House are pushing this bill, both show the American people they are following through on their campaign promises, and to demonstrate what they would do if they took back control of the Senate and the White House in 2020.
Democrats are delighted Trump wants to pivot to health care
Even as the Trump administration ramps up its rhetoric at coming up with a new plan to replace the health care law, Senate Republicans are showing reluctance to comply, especially as 21 of them start to eye reelection campaigns next year.
That reluctance prompted Trump to walk back his plan for the Republican Party to “soon become the party of health care.” On Monday, he said in a string of tweets that he would be putting off any effort to repeal and replace the ACA until after the 2020 elections.
“Vote will be taken right after the Election when Republicans hold the Senate & win back the House,” Trump tweeted. “It will be truly great HealthCare that will work for America.”
On Sunday, Trump’s director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, said on ABC’s This Week that no American would lose their health insurance if Republicans repealed the ACA and replaced it with their own plan.
But as Vox’s Sarah Kliff wrote, nonpartisan analysis of the administration’s actual plan laid out in its proposed budget shows that’s not true. In its budget proposal, the administration said it supports “enactment of legislation modeled after” the 2017 Republican health care bill known as Graham-Cassidy — which would “cause millions to lose coverage”:
The Congressional Budget Office analyzed Graham-Cassidy shortly after its introduction. Their report estimates that the legislation would, over a decade, spend $230 billion less on health coverage programs than the Affordable Care Act.
That sharp cut in funding helps explain why CBO thinks that Graham-Cassidy won’t deliver on Mulvaney’s promise that Americans won’t lose coverage if Obamacare is repealed.
Instead, the nonpartisan agency determined that “if this legislation was enacted, millions of additional people would be uninsured compared with CBO’s baseline projections.” The increase in uninsured would largely come from rolling back the Medicaid expansion. That program, which covers 61 million Americans and has grown significantly under the Affordable Care Act, would face a $1 trillion budget cut over the course of a decade.
Democrats are planning to remind American voters of these statistics all the way up until Election Day 2020.