Amy Coney Barrett hearing targets ACA: 5 takeaways

The ACA had a cameo at the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Oct. 12 Supreme Court confirmation hearing of federal appeals court Judge Amy Coney Barrett.

Five things to know:

1. Democrats focused on the future of the ACA during the hearing. Ms. Barrett’s confirmation hearing comes about a month before the Supreme Court is set to hear a case questioning the legality of the ACA. The White House argues the entire ACA is invalid because in December 2017, Congress eliminated the ACA’s tax penalty for failing to purchase health insurance. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading 20 states and the District of Columbia in defense of the ACA before the Supreme Court. 

2. During Ms. Barrett’s Oct. 12 hearing, vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., said Republicans want to confirm Ms. Barrett ahead of the Supreme Court’s review of the ACA lawsuit to help strike down the law, echoing her arguments in last week’s vice presidential debate. Ms. Harris said millions of Americans “who are protected by the ACA know this is fundamentally what is at stake with this Supreme Court nomination,” according to USA Today

3. Democrats have argued that Ms. Barrett’s criticism of a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts that upheld the ACA may indicate her stance on the case. As a professor at Notre Dame Law School, Ms. Barrett commented in a January 2017 law review article that Mr. Roberts’ 2012 opinion “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the [individual mandate] statute. He construed the penalty imposed on those without health insurance as a tax, which permitted him to sustain the statute as a valid exercise of the taxing power; had he treated the payment as the statute did — as a penalty — he would have had to invalidate the statute as lying beyond Congress’s commerce power.” 

4. Former judiciary committee chair Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, defended Ms. Barrett’s stance on healthcare. He said arguments that claim Ms. Barrett’s addition to the Supreme Court would “be the demise of the ACA” are “outrageous. As a mother of seven, Judge Barrett clearly understands the importance of healthcare,” according to USA Today.

5. Ms. Barrett said in planned remarks that she believes in an independent Supreme Court, and “policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people. The public should not expect courts to do so, and courts should not try,” according to USA Today.

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