Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says Congress should hold a vote rejecting the rationale behind a federal judge's ruling on Friday striking down the entire Affordable Care Act as unconstitutional.
"We're going to fight this tooth and nail. The first thing we're going to do when we get back to the Senate is put a vote on the floor urging an intervention in the case," Schumer said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor based his ruling on last year's Republican tax cut law, which repealed the tax penalty that enforced a mandate under Obamacare requiring that most Americans get health insurance. O'Connor agreed with Republican officials in 20 states who brought the case by calling the mandate "essential to and inseverable from" the entire law.
"A lot of this depends on congressional intent. If a majority of the House and a majority of the Senate say that this case should be overturned, it'll have a tremendous effect on the appeal," Schumer said.
The Supreme Court upheld Obamacare in 2012 and in 2015. Moreover, when Republicans crafted their tax cut legislation in December of 2017, few if any GOP lawmakers said it meant the end of the health care law altogether. In fact, Republicans just spent a majority of the 2018 midterm election cycle affirming their support for protections for pre-existing conditions.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), a supporter of Obamacare and its protections for pre-existing conditions, said Sunday she believes O'Connor's ruling will get overturned by a higher court.
"There's no reason why the individual mandate can't be struck down and keep all the good provisions" in the law, Collins said on CNN's "State of the Union."
If O'Connor's ruling stands, it would deal a major blow to the U.S. health care system. According to an analysis by the Urban Institute, eliminating the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, would increase the number of uninsured people by 50 percent with an additional 17 million people having no health coverage.
The Senate could pass a nonbinding resolution expressing the body's support for why the decision ought to be overturned, or simply clarifying its intent when it repealed Obamacare's individual mandate. It is unlikely Republicans will allow such a vote, however, especially after President Donald Trump hailed the ruling as "great news for America."
"I think what [Schumer] was saying is Congress should tell the circuit court what to do. I can't recall a similar time anything like that happened," Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a member of GOP leadership, said Sunday in a separate interview on "Meet the Press."
The appeals process is expected to take some time, potentially as long as two years. That could hand Democrats a winning campaign message ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
"It once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot," Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Sunday on ABC's "This Week." "If you're going to take away the Affordable Care Act, how will you protect the millions of people currently using it for health insurance for their family?"