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Senate Missouri Supreme Court

FILE - In this May 25, 2018, file photo, Missouri Attorney General and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Josh Hawley takes questions from the media after touring an ethanol plant in Macon, Mo. Hawley, who is seeking to unseat Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill in the November election, says is throwing his support behind President Donald Trump's U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson, File)

JEFFERSON CITY • Democratic state lawmakers want Attorney General Josh Hawley to withdraw Missouri from a lawsuit trying to gut the Affordable Care Act.

In a letter sent Monday, members of the Senate’s minority party called on the Republican to withdraw from the February lawsuit, which would end the Obama-era program.

“Make no mistake, if your lawsuit prevails, coverage for millions of Americans and protections for pre-existing conditions would disappear overnight. By being a party to this lawsuit, you are squarely on the side of removing protections for Americans — including 2.5 million Missourians — with pre-existing conditions,” the letter notes.

The letter comes after U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat who is poised to face Hawley in November in a race that could determine which party controls the Senate, co-sponsored a resolution that would direct Senate lawyers to defend against the lawsuit brought by Missouri and 19 other states.

Although the Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to consider the resolution, McCaskill’s move and the Democratic letter aim to highlight differences between the two-term senator and Hawley.

The letter was sent a day before President Donald Trump stops in Kansas City to attend a Hawley fundraiser and speak to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Republicans took away the individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance in the tax bill they sent to Trump at the end of 2017. In addition, the Trump’s administration has been whittling away administratively at the act.

The lawsuit claims the law is no longer constitutional after the repeal last year of its requirement that people have health insurance or pay a fine.

Hawley's office referred questions about the letter to his campaign, which issued a statement:

“The individual mandate is unconstitutional. And Obamacare has made health insurance unaffordable for Missouri families. Premiums are up 105% and counting. Claire McCaskill shouldn’t be holding patients hostage. She insists we keep Obamacare if we want to keep preexisting coverage. I think we need to cover preexisting AND get rid of Obamacare. Why is she putting partisanship first?”

In a statement last week, Hawley also said he supports a provision in the ACA allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans until age 26.

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Kurt Erickson is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch