With Wednesday’s deadline to make any changes to his looming argument, Barr filed his case in a room with Vice President Mike Pence, White House adviser Pat Cipollone, member of the Domestic Policy Council, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany and several other officials. The meeting ended without a decision and it was not immediately unclear whether any changes in the Trump administration’s position would emerge.
Barr and other key advisers have been opposed to hardline positions for some time, warning that it could have major political implications if a comprehensive health care law appears to be in jeopardy when voters head for elections in November.
According to four sources familiar with the meeting, Barr argued to modify the stance of the current administration to protect the legal sections, rather than fully supporting the lawsuit filed by a group of Republicans. As it stands now, the Trump administration’s position is trying to cancel the entire Affordable Care Act, which was signed by President Barack Obama in 2010 and is commonly known as Obamacare.
Even before the pandemic, more than 11.4 million people registered for Obamacare coverage for 2020 and around 12.5 million were enrolled in Medicaid expansion.
Trump’s domestic policy aides have rejected any changes in the current Trump administration’s legal arguments, arguing that the legal position must move forward without change because Republicans have been campaigning to revoke Obamacare for a decade. The aides dismissed the possibility of new political impacts, and pushed Barr back at Monday’s meeting.
The Department of Justice declined to comment.
This split has been a long-running battle within the government, but has a new sense of urgency because the government faces a deadline on Wednesday if it wants to change its argument.
The current administration believes that individual insurance requirements are unconstitutional, and because the mandate is bound by other legal provisions, the Affordable Care Act must fall. If the administration will withdraw from the absolute position, it is likely to submit a submission to the Supreme Court within the next 48 hours, based on the current court briefing schedule for the parties to the duel. If not, the administrative brief will not mature to the high court until June.
Barr has long supported the government position, which has shifted many times since the lawsuit began in early 2018. The administration believes that only two main provisions protecting Americans with pre-existing conditions will fall, but the rest of the law can remain. In a dramatic reversal soon after Barr became attorney general in early 2019, the Department of Justice said the Affordable Care Act had to be canceled. A few months later, the government argued before a federal appeals court that the law could only be beaten because it applied to a coalition of Republican-led countries that brought challenges.
After a decade, the Affordable Care Act has affected almost every aspect of the health care system. That requires that all Americans get protection and create a market to buy insurance. It also expands Medicaid for poor people and diabetics who are protected, cancer patients and others with pre-existing conditions of being denied coverage or charging higher premiums.
On the other side are California and the states led by Democrats and the US House which are now controlled by Democrats. The Affordable Care Act remains in force through litigation.
The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to take the ACA dispute. The case is likely to be heard in autumn, but a decision will not be expected until 2021, after the November presidential election.
This case will mark the third time that the Supreme Court took a major ACA dispute. In 2012, the judges upheld the law, by 5-4 votes, with Chief Justice John Roberts voting with four liberal judges over the differences of opinion of four conservatives. Roberts bases his opinion on the taxation strength of Congress.
This story has been updated to include additional background information and reflects that the Department of Justice declined to comment.