WASHINGTON – One week after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in the Republican-led Texas v. United States lawsuit to dismantle the entire Affordable Care Act (ACA), U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, on Thursday delivered remarks on the U.S. Senate floor calling on the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to withdraw support for the lawsuit or tell the American people what their plans are for the over 130 million Americans living with pre-existing health conditions and millions of Americans who gained health care in states that expanded Medicaid.
“It is mere fantasy to think that we can reproduce the protections in the Affordable Care Act if we're not talking about it ahead of time,” said Murphy. “So I'm just coming back down to the floor today, as I have several times in the last few months, to ask my Republican colleagues: either withdraw your support for this lawsuit, stop the administration from being able to pursue it in court, or start a serious discussion about how you are going to protect care for everyone that has it today.”
Murphy added, “If [the lawsuit] succeeds, as many Republicans hope it does, all we are going to be talking about here is health care. We will overnight be consumed by this topic and we will not be able to come up with a solution that involves the same amount of protections that exists today. So why repeal it? Why not continue to work on making the system better, without holding hostage all of the Americans who rely on it today.”
The full text of Murphy’s remarks is below:
“I come to the floor today to ask my colleagues a simple question. There is a lawsuit that is proceeding through the court system right now that has succeeded at the district court level, that has had a hearing at the appellate court level and may be speeding towards the Supreme Court. It's a lawsuit that was brought by 20 republican attorneys general. A lawsuit that is being supported by the Trump administration, a lawsuit and many of my colleagues have gone on record saying that they support. It is a lawsuit to undo the entirety of the Affordable Care Act to throw out insurance for 20 million Americans, to end protections for people with pre-existing conditions. It's an attempt to do through the court system what this Congress refused to do, which is to obliterate the Affordable Care Act and all the insurance it provides for people without any plan for what comes next.
“I served in both the House and the Senate and I've listened for a long time to my Republican colleagues say that, while they don't like the Affordable Care Act, they certainly understand that there's got to be something else. And that that something else should be just as good as the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the President himself said that whatever plan that he supported, in substitute of the Affordable Care Act would have better insurance, cheaper insurance, would insure more people.
“Republicans never came up with that plan. In fact, the replacement that they jammed through the House of Representatives in 2017 was much worse than the Affordable Care Act. The Congressional Budget Office said that about 24 million people would lose insurance because of that piece of legislation and rates would potentially skyrocket for people with pre-existing conditions. And so there's never been this replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The only plan from the beginning has been to repeal it. And now that Congress has said that it won't repeal the Affordable Care Act, why? Because Americans, Americans do not want the Affordable Care Act repealed with nothing to replace it. Now that the Congress won't do it because the American people don't support the repeal of the protections for sick people in the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are trying to get the courts to do it. And so we are perhaps 60 days away from the Fifth Circuit invalidating the entirety of the Affordable Care Act.
“Now, likely if that's the case the judgment will ultimately be rendered by the Supreme Court. But that could come as soon as the beginning of next year, we could still be months away from a humanitarian catastrophe in this country in which the entirety of the Affordable Care Act is invalidated. And it's put back before Congress what to do about it. And so it would stand to reason that if your plan is to try to get the whole thing, the entire Affordable Care Act thrown out in Congress, that you would maybe start thinking about what would replace it. But as far as I can tell, Republicans have no plan for what happens if the Affordable Care Act is overturned. As far as I can tell, my Republican colleagues have spent no time thinking about what would happen if they actually ended up catching the car that they have been chasing. What happens if the lawsuit succeeds? What happens if the Affordable Care Act is struck down? What comes next? Because we can't accept, and I don't think my Republican colleagues would want to accept, millions of people losing coverage overnight, or insurance companies being able to discriminate against you because your child has a history of cancer or an insurance company being able to go back to capping the amount of insurance you get on an annual or lifetime basis.
“But it is mere fantasy to think that we can reproduce the protections in the Affordable Care Act if we're not talking about it ahead of time. And so I'm just coming back down to the floor today, as I have several times in the last few months to ask my Republican colleagues either withdraw your support for this lawsuit, stop the administration from being able to pursue it in court, or start a serious discussion about how you are going to protect care for everyone that has it today. Not a handful of people that have it today, but all the people who have it today while this lawsuit is moving through the system.
“My Republican colleagues have been queried as to whether they support this lawsuit or not. And the answers are all over the map, which tells you once again that nobody on the Republican side has really thought this one through one Republican senator says ‘I actually don't think the courts are eventually ever going to strike it down,’ another says ‘I'm ready for the lawsuit to succeed. I would love to go back in and actually deal with health care again,’ another one says ‘Do I hope the lawsuit succeeds? I do,’ another says ‘I can't say I hope it succeeds. I think the strategy from here on that I've adopted in my own mind is repair’ another says ‘my hope and belief is the Supreme Court won't strike the law down.’ The answers are all over the map. And that's fine. Republicans can have a varied set of opinions on whether the lawsuit should succeed or not. But none of those individuals who are quoted giving various opinions as to whether they would like the lawsuit to succeed have a concrete plan for what comes next. And let's just be honest, it is mere fantasy to think that a divided Congress is going to be able to, in an emergency, come up with a plan to keep 20 million people insured and keep pre-existing condition protections for the 133 million Americans who depend on them.
“We can't pass a budget through Congress, we have trouble passing a higher education reauthorization or the Violence Against Women Act. How on earth are we going to pass a reordering of the American health care system when it is blown to bits by a Supreme Court decision that no one is ready for.
“So that's why I'm down on the floor today. I'm going to keep on bringing this up because I just can't accept this world in which we live in today, in which half of this chamber is just sort of boxing their ears and closing their eyes to this legal strategy. If it succeeds, as many Republicans hope it does, all we are going to be talking about here is health care. We will overnight be consumed by this topic and we will not be able to come up with a solution that involves the same amount of protections that exists today. So why repeal it? Why not continue to work on making the system better, without holding hostage all of the Americans who rely on it today. That's a much better path of action: keep the Affordable Care Act in place, work together on ways that we can fix the existing health care system. Don't create a chaotic situation with the wholesale repeal of the entire act, putting lives at jeopardy. There is no plan on behalf of Republicans as to what to do if the ACA is overturned and I feel like we need to remind the country of that over and over again.”