House Democrats mount ACA defense in rules package

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The House Democrats' rules package includes a provision to allow the Speaker to "intervene" in the Texas ACA case. (Pixabay)

House Democrats are aiming to give themselves the power to defend the Affordable Care Act from legal challenges—including a Texas ruling that declared the law unconstitutional. 

The rules package (PDF) in the House for the new session of Congress includes a provision that would allow the speaker to “intervene” in litigation against the ACA. 

A Texas judge ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional, as the law’s individual mandate was repealed in December 2017 by a Republican-controlled Congress. The ruling faces a long legal path, and the law remains in effect through the appeal process. 

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In the Texas case, the Trump administration did not defend the ACA against the challenge, and the law was instead backed by several Democratic attorneys general. If passed, the updated House rules would allow Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Cal., to wade into the legal dispute. 

A vote on the rules package is expected next week, The Hill reported. A spokesperson for Pelosi told the outlet that the provision aims to give the GOP “nowhere to hide” on health policy. 

“Republicans who survived the election on their tardy promises to protect pre-existing conditions will have to explain why they have once again been complicit in trying to strike-down those lifesaving protections,” spokesman Henry Connelly said. 

RELATED: What the 2018 midterm elections mean for healthcare—predictability 

House Republicans filed a suit to challenge the ACA’s subsidies and backed the efforts of state officials in the Texas lawsuit. Healthcare, and protections for patients with pre-existing conditions in particular, was a key issue in the 2018 elections that earned the Democrats back the House. 

Meanwhile, one of the Texas rulings’ biggest cheerleaders, President Donald Trump, said Wednesday he believes that the Supreme Court will weigh in on the District Judge Reed O’Conner’s decision—and that it will back O’Conner’s conclusion that the law is unconstitutional. 

During a televised cabinet meeting, Trump said a Supreme Court ruling would force a bipartisan compromise on a new healthcare policy direction. 

“We should win at the Supreme Court, where this case will go,” Trump said. “When we do, we will sit down with the Democrats and we will come up with great healthcare.” 

The Supreme Court upheld most of Congress’ power to enact the Affordable Care Act in its 2012 ruling on National Federation of Independent Businesses v. Sebelius.

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