Lee Newspapers: Tester slams brief calling for ACA to fall

by Holly Michels

Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester on Tuesday introduced a resolution condemning the U.S. Department of Justice and Trump administration’s brief filed late last week asking the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down the entire Affordable Care Act.

His resolution calls on the DOJ to reverse the position it lays out in the brief and instead argue to defend the ACA, also called Obamacare.

In the brief filed late last Thursday, Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote that “nothing the 2017 Congress did demonstrates it would have intended the rest of the ACA to continue” when it voted to eliminate the tax penalty for not having insurance. Because of that, he argued, the entire law should fall when the high court takes up a challenge to the ACA, also called Obamacare.

Both of the Republicans in Montana’s congressional delegation said Friday they wanted to see a popular provision of the act – protections for those with preexisting conditions – continue but that the ACA should be repealed. U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte said the best way to do that was legislatively, while U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said he supported any mechanism.

Tester, a Democrat, said Tuesday that while he’s pointed out the ACA has its flaws, he was deeply concerned with the potential for health care coverage for up to 425,000 Montanans with preexisting conditions to be put at risk without a replacement, especially during the coronavirus pandemic. About 85,000 Montanans are also covered by Medicaid expansion, which was created under the ACA.

Tester said in the middle of a pandemic, putting the ACA at risk is the wrong move.

“It makes no sense whatsoever and shows how out of touch this whole thing is,” Tester said. “… I will be the first to tell you the ACA is not perfect and we need to work to fix it and getting it better, but repealing with no replacement is going to put millions out in the cold and hundreds of Montanans out in the cold.”

Though the Senate math, where Republicans hold a majority, make passing the resolution a challenge, Tester said his hope is to stop the administration from “heading down a one-way road the wrong way.”

The full Democratic caucus has signed onto it. That’s 46 senators in addition to Tester.