Politics

Chuck Schumer Seeks Senate Vote on Defending Obamacare

New push by Senate Democrats to respond to Texas judge’s ruling that law is unconstitutional

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said Sunday that Democrats will make another push to get the Senate to defend the health care law in court. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Calling the ruling of a Texas federal judge, “awful, awful,” New York Democratic Sen. Charles E. Schumer wants a congressional intervention on behalf of Obamacare.

The Friday night ruling from Judge Reed O’Connor struck down the individual mandate of the 2010 health care overhaul as unconstitutional, and he went a step further in saying that it couldn’t be severed from the rest of the law, meaning it would fall as well. But as a practical matter, the law appears to be remaining in place pending appeals.

Schumer, the Senate minority leader, said Sunday that he is going to renew an effort to force a vote on getting the chamber to go to court in defense of the health care law.

“It’s an awful, awful ruling, and we’re going to fight this tooth-and-nail, and the first thing we’re going to do when we get back there in the Senate is urge — put a vote on the floor urging an intervention in the case,” Schumer said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin III introduced a resolution back in July that would authorize the legal counsel of the Senate to take part in the legal proceedings against Texas and the other states involved, including Manchin’s home state of West Virginia.

It became a key issue for Manchin in part because his 2018 challenger was the state’s GOP attorney general.

“This ruling is just plain wrong,” Manchin said in a statement issued Friday night. “I look forward to its appeal to a higher court, and I intend to fight to ensure that the Senate has an opportunity to intervene to defend these critical health safeguards.”

Democrats tried and failed to force a vote on the Manchin proposal in August, and a Manchin unanimous consent request to call up and pass the measure Sept. 5 faced objection.

Given the district court ruling in Texas, Schumer intends to make another run at securing a vote.

“A lot of this depends on congressional intent, and 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 Sunday. “Our first stop is the courts. We believe this should be overturned.”

Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was one of the key votes thwarting a GOP effort to rollback the 2010 health care law as part of a dramatic late night session of the Senate, said she thought the broad sweep of the O’Connor ruling would be overturned on appeal.

“There’s no reason why the individual mandate provision can’t be struck down and keep all the good provisions of the Affordable Care Act,” Collins said on “State of the Union” on CNN.

“This ruling is not going to affect people who are currently enrolled who’re in Obamacare policies or the policies for 2019,” Collins said.

The ruling, which came out just as 2019 open enrollment for the health care law’s exchanges was coming to a close, caused a fair amount of confusion among consumers.

Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the incoming Republican Policy Committee chairman, also argued on “Meet the Press,” that the judge’s ruling has a limited effect in the short term.

“This’ll be another area where health care will be used as a political issue, way beyond one district judge making a ruling that has no immediate impact,” Blunt said.

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