WASHINGTON • Sen. Claire McCaskill is co-sponsoring a resolution that would direct Senate lawyers to defend against a lawsuit trying to kill the Affordable Care Act, a move that has virtually no chance of passing but highlights the great divide between her and Attorney General Josh Hawley on a key issue in Missouri’s nationally watched Senate race.
McCaskill, D-Mo., along with Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Thursday they would introduce the resolution. The Republican-controlled Senate is unlikely to consider it, since its leaders are on record as supporting the aims of the lawsuit by Texas, Missouri and 18 other states. But Manchin and McCaskill said they believe GOP lawmakers were hearing the same concerns they were hearing about continued rising costs and accessibility of health care, and they appealed to them on that basis.
McCaskill and Manchin were part of a bipartisan group of senators — 12 from each party — who unsuccessfully tried to come up with a plan to fix Obamacare after the GOP-controlled Congress last year failed to get enough support in its own caucuses to outright repeal and replace the controversial law.
Republicans took away the individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance in a major tax bill passed at the end of 2017. In addition, President Donald Trump’s administration has been whittling away administratively at the act, which Casey called “sabotage, pure and simple.”
Hawley, representing Missouri, joined the lawsuit challenging the ACA that was filed in February. He said then that “my office will continue to fight to take health care choices out of the hands of bureaucrats and return them to the hands of Missourians and their physicians.”
When the lawsuit was filed, Hawley called the Affordable Care Act “unlawful” and said that it “must be enjoined as soon as possible so that free choice is again made possible for states and individuals.”
McCaskill said Thursday that the lawsuit, and other Republican actions, threaten ACA protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
“The attorney general of Missouri had a decision to make: I will either stand with the people of Missouri and protect them from insurance companies deciding whether or not they get insurance based on whether or not they had had the nerve to be sick before, or I will stand with insurance companies and do away with every protection we put in the law,” McCaskill said, not mentioning Hawley by name.
“And by the way this impacts not just people who are buying insurance on the exchanges. This impacts people at work (because) it changes the rules for whether or not you get coverage for pre-existing conditions in your employment insurance. So this will affect millions of Missourians.”
McCaskill and Hawley face primaries in their respective parties on Aug. 7. McCaskill is considered one of the most endangered Democrats seeking re-election in states Trump won in 2016.
“I had 53 town halls last year … and most of those town halls were in counties where I am not very popular, where Donald Trump won by more than 30 points,” McCaskill said at a news conference here. “And you know the common theme in all of those town halls? Health care, health care, health care, health care.”
Hawley, in a statement issued by his office, said that “if healthcare is the number one thing on voters’ minds, Sen. McCaskill is in big trouble.
“She is responsible for the fact that Missouri families can’t afford their healthcare bills,” Hawley said. “… She insists we keep Obamacare if we want to keep pre-existing coverage. I think we need to cover pre-existing conditions and get rid of Obamacare. Why is she putting partisanship first.”
Manchin, another Democrat in a tough re-election fight, called moves to peel back protections for those with pre-existing conditions “inhumane” and “unconscionable.” McCaskill accused Republicans of protecting insurance companies that “are more focused on greed than they are on health care.”
Borrowing a line from Republicans, who often attack judges for supplanting their own beliefs in court rulings rather than sticking to the Constitution, McCaskill said the lawsuit that Hawley signed onto is itself judicial activism.
“I love lectures about judicial activism,” McCaskill said. “You want a definition of judicial activism? How about using the courts to do what Congress has refused to do? … That is what is going on right now.”
Hawley said that “for examples of judicial activism, (McCaskill) should look at the records of the judges she has supported.”