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Internal talking points circulating on Capitol Hill reveal Democrats’ scramble to win the political messaging war sparked by the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before an already contentious presidential election.
The top policy issue congressional Democrats are stressing: healthcare.
It’s an issue they’ve won on before, and are hoping to wield again considering there are no realistic options in their arsenal to stop Republicans from confirming a new conservative judge to the high court.
The memos obtained by Business Insider detail Democrats’ plan for leaning into the battle against President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans over the 2010 Affordable Care Act. Democrats see it as a winning issue for them in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and as the Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments the week after the presidential election that could decide the fate of President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law.
“The most important thing we can do now as we head into election season is communicate to the American people and protect what’s at stake,” said a document Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent to congressional Democrats on September 19, the day after Ginsburg’s death.
“Everything Americans value is at stake,” the memo continued. “Health care, protections for pre-existing conditions, women’s rights, LGBTQIA+ rights, workers’ rights, labor rights, voting rights, civil rights, climate change, and so much else is at risk when we are considering this Supreme Court vacancy.”
Trump has said he’ll announce his nominee on Saturday, and Senate Republicans have indicated they hope to have a new justice confirmed before Election Day.
Additional talking points circulated on Thursday by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, included more messaging guidance from Schumer’s office, which is coordinating the effort in the Senate to stymie a swift confirmation of Ginsburg’s replacement.
“Americans’ right to healthcare hangs in the balance,” the document says. “President Trump is pursuing a lawsuit which would eliminate protections for more than 130 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, send drug prices soaring for seniors on Medicare and rip insurance away from millions.”
Supreme Court primed to hear Obamacare arguments Nov. 10
The Supreme Court is slated to hear oral arguments in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, on November 10, just one week after the election.
Democrats are highlighting the stakes in that case, hoping that Americans concerned about losing healthcare during a deadly pandemic will be motivated to vote for Joe Biden on Election Day.
Back in 2018, Democrats campaigned heavily on healthcare, which is partly credited with fueling their big gains during the midterm elections including winning back the House majority.
The Trump administration has argued that Obamacare should be gutted, and legal insiders expect him to appoint someone inclined to strike down the law. Republicans in Congress have attempted — and failed — numerous times to repeal it.
Trump said during the 2016 presidential campaign that Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts — a conservative justice who sided with the liberal wing of the court to uphold Obama’s healthcare law — was an “absolute disaster because he gave us Obamacare.”
Progressive advocacy groups are also focusing on the implications for Obamacare as the fight for the vacant Supreme Court seat plays out on Capitol Hill.
“The nightmare scenario for me is that this Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision rips away healthcare coverage for millions of Americans and 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions in the middle of a pandemic,” Christopher Kang, a former Obama White House attorney and the cofounder and chief counsel of the judicial advocacy group Demand Justice, told Insider in an interview.
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