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‘What We Want to Do Is Terminate It’: Trump Ignores Barr’s Advice on Obamacare Legal Strategy


President Donald Trump was reputedly implored by one of his most loyal cabinet members to swiftly change course on eliminating the Affordable Care Act (ACA) once and for all. On Wednesday, the 45th president publicly ignored that advice.

“What we want to do is terminate it,” Trump said on Wednesday when asked if he supports efforts to switch the administration’s position on a lawsuit targeting Obamacare. “We’ll have great health care. Including preexisting conditions. One hundred percent.”

Attorney General William Barr reportedly lobbied for the last-ditch modification of legal strategy in recent days. The 77th and 85th attorney general’s efforts culminated in a Monday meeting during which several high-level members of the administration, including Vice President Mike Pence and White House counsel Pat Cipollone, entertained the idea of jettisoning their hard-line stance on the controversial law over the optics of gutting health care amidst the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Barr and others who agree with him have long made the case that the White House should back off from the red state-led effort to curtail the ACA in its entirety–arguing that the potential loss of health insurance coverage weighing on voters’ minds in November was a political loser for Trump’s re-election prospects.

The opposite argument was cabined in terms of its potential political impact as well. Administration opponents of Obamacare said the president had to stick out his opposition to the health care law because Republicans have cast their identity for over a decade in plans to “repeal and replace” the landmark 2010 federal statute.

Trump made his choice clear during a White House press pool.

“We want to terminate health care under Obamacare” and replace it, the president said–hewing to the longstanding GOP messaging on the fight against Barack Obama‘s signature legislative achievement.

“Obamacare–we run it really well,” Trump added. “But running it great, it’s still lousy health care.”

While the Trump administration has tried to create daylight between its negative (repeal Obamacare) and positive (replace Obamacare) healthcare policies, experts have repeatedly observed and warned that the White House does not actually have any sort of sweeping legislative agenda or fell-swoop plan for replacing the law.

The left-of-center Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes that many of Obamacare’s major planks are simply unaddressed by the most recent proposals emanating from Trump–including the ACA’s popular ban on health insurance providers denying coverage or charging higher prices for patients with preexisting conditions.

The president has clearly attuned himself to the public esteem held for the preexisting conditions ban–repeatedly stating, without evidence, that he is aiming to safeguard that segment of federal while dispensing with the rest of the ACA.

“We’re replacing it with a great healthcare at far less money,” Trump insisted Wednesday, “and it includes preexisting conditions.”

The lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court is stylized as California, et, al v. Texas, et, al. and if successful, aims to eradicate Obamacare entirely.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton originally argued that since the deeply unpopular individual mandate provision of Obamacare was stripped of its enforcement mechanism via the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, that penalty is no longer a tax. Without the mandate, per Paxton and other GOP attorneys general, the entire bill must be struck down.

The U.S. House of Representatives and California submitted their briefs with the nation’s high court on Wednesday.

University of Texas Law Professor Steve Vladeck criticized Trump for doublespeak on the issue.

“In other words, the Trump administration will argue to [the Supreme Court] not only that the ACA’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, but that, as a result, most (if not all) of the statute should be invalidated,” he tweeted. “Keep that in mind the next time Trump lies about preexisting conditions.”

[image via Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images]

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