The Trump administration filed a brief Tuesday to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare, in a significant shift from its initial policy that only a portion of a law should be overturned.
The Justice Department submitted its filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, which has an appeal pending challenging the law's constitutionality. A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that because of the change in federal tax law passed by Republicans in Congress in 2017.
"The Department of Justice has determined that the district court's judgment should be affirmed," The Justice Department wrote in Tuesday's memo.
Although President Trump has railed against Obamacare for years and has frequently called for its repeal and replacement, he and other Republicans have insisted that they support protecting coverage for pre-existing conditions. If Obamacare were to be invalidated, insurers would not be required to cover pre-existing conditions.
Mr. Trump has previously expressed support for government-funded health care. Inas a candidate in 2015, Mr. Trump said that the uninsured will be taken care of much better than they're taken care of now" and "the government's gonna pay for it."
Efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare in 2017 failed, which Mr. Trump blames on the late Sen. John McCain's opposition to the repeal. Twenty million people have received health coverage under Obamacare since it was signed into law in 2010.
Democrats ran largely on health care in the 2018 midterm elections, which contributed to their massive gains in the House of Representatives. In a pre-election, 68 percent of respondents said that health care would be a very important issue in deciding their votes.
Democrats are happy to be discussing health care, two days after Attorney General William Barr dealt a blow to the president's opponents by revealing that the special counsel investigation found no instance of collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. The Justice Department also determined that the president had not obstructed justice, though Mueller did not reach a conclusion in the matter. The Trump administration's newly stated policy on Obamacare allows Democrats to pivot to talking about an issue with which they stand on firmer ground.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Tuesday that the Trump administration's shift in position on Obamacare was "an opportunity for Democrats to speak to the American people with clarity."
"They say one thing and they do another, they say they're gonna protect preexisting conditions as a benefit, and then they go to court to strip it," Pelosi said. "And strip the whole bill, that means that tens of millions of people, 20 million people will lose their health care."
Sen. Kamala Harris, one of the Democrats running for president in 2020, addressed the issue onTuesday. She said "one of the the the main things that keeps people up at night that they worry about is whether they're going to have access to affordable health care."
"People want to know that preexisting conditions will not be a barrier to them receiving the health care that they need, and I think this is a critical matter. And we shouldn't be playing games with it," Harris said.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is also running for president, wrote on Twitter: "If you benefit from the #ACA, it is now the official position of the White House to take away your health coverage, with no sign of a plan to help you if they win and you lose.
"If the whole ACA really is unconstitutional then let's just get everyone health care like other developed countries do. Come to think of it, let's do that regardless," Buttigieg said.