WASHINGTON, D.C. — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell dismissed concerns about the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as scare tactics from Democrats but the landmark health care law is in jeopardy as McConnell marches towards confirming conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.
“No one is going to lose their health care. We don’t know if the Supreme Court is going to take down the entire law or just parts of it. There’s no way to predict,” he said in an interview with Spectrum News One Thursday.
“Everybody should breathe easy. This is a campaign gimmick on the part of the Democrats to scare the American people. Their pre-existing conditions coverage is not in danger,” he added.
Barrett has called into question the legality of the ACA in the past.
In a 2017 Notre Dame Law School article, Barrett criticized Chief Justice John Roberts' reasoning to uphold the Affordable Care Act, saing that he "pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute."
Democrats have zeroed in on the future of the Affordable Care Act, which is colloquially referred to as "Obamacare," in their opposition to Barrett's nomination.
Speaking the day after she was nominated, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Barrett has a "written track record of disagreeing adamantly with the Supreme Court's decisions on two occasions upholding the ACA."
The ACA has been challenged in the Supreme Court multiple times, and was prominently featured in two major cases: National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. (2014).
“In both major cases brought against the ACA, Judge Barrett twice sided against the law,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. He says a vote for Barrett is a vote to take away healthcare from millions of vulnerable Americans.
“She publicly criticized Justice Roberts for upholding the law, and said that if the Supreme Court read the statute the way she does, they would have had to “invalidate” it," he added.
It’s not clear what the Republican response would be if the law is in fact repealed. McConnell criticized Senate Democrats on the floor today for voting against Senator Tom Tillis (R-NC) proposed amendment to leave out pre-existing condition exclusions from the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
“Democrats voted to block protections for pre-existing conditions. Just like they voted to block hundreds of billions of dollars of coronavirus relief. And just like they voted to block police reform,” McConnell said.
The confirmation hearing for Barrett is expected to begin on October 12th in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to the Kentucky Center for Economic Policy, an ACA repeal would translate to more than 379,000 Kentuckians losing coverage.
The Supreme Court battle comes amid a global pandemic that has led to more than 200,000 American deaths and severe job loss. Congress hasn't passed a COVID-19 relief bill since March.
"It takes two to make a deal. And Pelosi and the Secretary of the Treasury continue to talk. I’ve been in full agreement with the talking and we’re hoping we can reach an agreement," said McConnell.
The nation is also confronting a reckoning on racial injustice.
McConnell did not offer support for the Black Lives Matter movement in name but said he agreed with constitutionally protected peaceful demonstrations.
When asked if he's concerned President Trump's rhetoric on race will disrupt his own legacy and the legacy of the Republican Party, McConnell said, "I speak for myself ... I’m proud of the fact that I’ve been in the forefront of trying to deal with race relations my entire life and continue to feel like that’s a strong obligation for people in my position."
McConnell doesn't view giving the Voting Rights Advancement Act a vote on the Senate floor as an extension of those responsibilities.
"I honor John Lewis. The bill, however, in my view is not so much about voting rights as much as it is about giving the Democrats a partisan advantage to try to win elections in America. They co-opted John Lewis’ name and put it on it. That doesn’t make it anything less than a Democratic partisan effort to change the rules of the game in America to make it more likely they win elections."
McConnell achieved a recent political victory with the passage of the Horse Racing Integrity and Safety Act in the House. The bill, a longtime passion project of Rep. Andy Barr (R-KY), would help set national standards for Thoroughbred racing.
"It’s extremely significant. It’s the result of negotiation among various parts of the horse racing industry that I participated in and brokered. It has now cleared the House of Representatives and I’m hoping we can get it out of the Senate. It’s absolutely critical to saving the horse racing industry in America," McConnell said.
Watch Eva McKend's full interview here: