“Obamacare is terrible. It doesn’t work. We’ve made the best of it,” Trump said at a White House news conference, one day after he had introduced Judge Amy Coney Barrett as his nominee to succeed the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
Democrats say Trump is rushing the nomination in hopes of improving his reelection chances and in preparation for a potential court fight over the results. But with little chance to block Barrett’s confirmation, Democrats are increasingly turning to the practical question of her vote in a case the high court will hear a week after Election Day.
“If we can end Obamacare and come up with a much better health-care system that’s much cheaper and much better, which is what we’ll do,” the country would be better off, Trump said.
Democrats think Barrett could spell the end of the law’s popular guarantee that health care cannot be denied to those with existing or past medical conditions, and hope that will motivate Democrats to vote.
The law survived one high court challenge, in 2012, but faces another advanced by Trump and a group of Republican attorneys general arguing that the entire law should be overturned as unconstitutional. The case will be argued the week after Election Day.
Barrett has spoken and written in opposition to the Supreme Court’s 2012 decision preserving the law against an initial constitutional challenge. Although candidates for the high court rarely spell out their views on specific cases during their confirmation hearings, both Republicans and Democrats expect that she would vote to strike down the law in the current case given her past commentary.
Trump has promised to install his own protection for those with preexisting conditions, but he has not put forward a firm proposal to do so in the three-plus years of his presidency.
Democratic nominee Joe Biden accused Trump of exploiting the sudden death of the liberal justice to improve his odds when the high court again takes up Obamacare.
“President Trump sees a chance to fulfill his explicit mission: steal away the vital protections of the ACA from countless families that have come to rely on them for their health, their financial security, the lives of those they love,” Biden said in Wilmington, Del.
A growing number of Democrats have announced that they are declining to meet with Barrett, including Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.), who said Sunday that a meeting is beside the point “because I believe, first, that the whole process has been illegitimate, and, second, because she has already stated that she is for overturning the ACA.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alleged Sunday that Republicans want Barrett confirmed quickly so she can vote to overturn Obamacare.
“That is why he was in such a hurry, so he could have been in place for the oral arguments which begin November 10,” Pelosi said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union,” referring to Trump.
Trump suggested that a better proposal was around the corner: “Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court,” he tweeted on Sunday. “Would be a big WIN for the USA!”
The president echoed other Republicans on Sunday in attempting to argue that Democratic opposition to Barrett, a devout conservative Catholic, was rooted in bias against her religion.
“I thought we settled this 60 years ago with the election of John F. Kennedy,” Trump said at the Sunday news conference, referring to the Catholic president.
Democrats have called such attacks absurd, noting that Biden is a devout Catholic who attends Mass regularly. Trump, who rarely attends church but has a base of support among White evangelicals, has claimed that Biden “hates God.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, made an issue of Barrett’s religion during her bitter 2017 confirmation hearings to become a federal judge. Feinstein’s reference to the “dogma” of Catholicism drew complaints of religious bigotry.
On Sunday, Biden implored Senate Republicans to defer a confirmation vote until the election is decided. Republicans are eyeing Oct. 12 as the first day of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings on Barrett’s nomination.
“Just because you have the power to do something doesn’t absolve you of your responsibility to do right by the American people,” Biden said. “Uphold your constitutional duty, summon your conscience, stand up for the people, stand up for our cherished system of checks and balances.”
Biden declined several questions about whether he would support installing additional justices on the Supreme Court if Republicans proceed with the Barrett confirmation, a threat that some Democrats have been weighing.
“The American public will vote on the Senate races this election, and they’ll vote Republicans out of office,” he said. “That’s the consequence.”
Trump appears to have enough votes to confirm Barrett, and Republicans aim to do so before the Nov. 3 election.
Barrett, whose judicial philosophy follows that of her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, is poised to push the Supreme Court further right for decades to come.
The confirmation fight adds another dynamic to the presidential race, which has remained unusually static for months with Biden holding a steady advantage over Trump. Biden and his vice-presidential nominee, Sen. Kamala D. Harris (Calif.), lead Trump and Vice President Pence by 53 percent to 43 percent among registered voters, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday.
That is statistically unchanged from the 12-point margin in a poll taken in August just before Democrats and Republicans held their conventions. Biden and Harris also have a 10-point advantage among likely voters, 54 percent to 44 percent.
Biden’s lead narrows to six points among likely voters (49 percent to 43 percent) and among registered voters (47 percent to 41 percent) when Libertarian Party nominee Jo Jorgensen and Green Party nominee Howie Hawkins are included as response options in the survey.
A sizable gender gap continues to fuel Biden’s lead, with women making the difference in the current state of the race. Trump has a lead of 55 percent to 42 percent among male likely voters, but Biden has an even larger 65 percent to 34 percent advantage among female likely voters. Trump’s lead among men is about the same as his margin over Hillary Clinton in 2016, but Biden’s lead among women is more than twice as large as Clinton’s was then.
With fewer than 40 days until the election, a majority of Americans, 57 percent, say the winner should choose the high court nominee, while 38 percent say Trump should fill the seat whether he wins or not.