Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse called Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett a "judicial torpedo" aimed at the Affordable Care Act in his opening statement Monday, joining a number of his Democratic colleagues in framing the confirmation of the conservative judge as an attack against the Obama-era health care law.
"This Supreme Court nominee has signaled in the judicial equivalent of all caps that she believes the Affordable Care Act must go, and that the precedent protecting the ACA doesn't matter," Whitehouse said during day one of Barrett's confirmation hearing. "The big secret to influences behind this unseemly rush see this nominee as a judicial torpedo they are firing at the ACA."
President Trump has repeatedly indicated he will nominate a judge who would rule against the ACA, commonly referred to as Obamacare. The high court is slated to hear oral arguments challenging the constitutionality of the ACA on Nov. 10, one week after the presidential election.
Whitehouse said Rhode Islanders are "calling, writing, emailing, tweeting me by the thousands asking me to say 'no' to this nominee mostly because they see as a judicial torpedo aimed at their essential protections."
The White House-backed lawsuit was brought by a group of Republican states, spearheaded by Texas, who are arguing the individual mandate –the provision that requires Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a financial penalty – was made unconstitutional when the GOP-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced the penalty to zero.
The suit contends if that part of Obamacare is invalid, so is the rest of the law.
The ultimate outcome of the lawsuit will affect millions of Americans, and the repeal of the decade-old law could leave up to 32 million people without health insurance by 2026, according to a Congressional Budget Office report from 2017 about the effects of repealing Obamacare.
"My constituents want you, my colleagues, members of the Republican Party, to stand up for once to Mitch McConnell and to the big donors who are driving this process, and for the sake of regular people, say 'stop,'" Whitehouse said.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September, voted to uphold the Obama-era law in 2012 alongside the court's three other liberal justices and Chief Justice John Roberts. She was widely expected to do so again when the high court reviews Obamacare for the third time.
In her opening remarks to the Senate, Barrett says expected to say, "policy decisions and value judgments of government must be made by the political branches elected by and accountable to the people."
Democrats have made it central to their message that she will join with conservative justices on the court and vote to invalidate the law. Giving fuel to that argument is a 2017 Notre Dame Law School article that Barrett wrote criticizing past judicial decisions to uphold the ACA.
“For Justice Scalia and those who share his commitment to uphold text, the measure of a court is its fair-minded application of the rule of law, which means going where the law leads. By this measure, it is illegitimate for the Court to distort either the Constitution or a statute to achieve what it deems a preferable result,” Barrett wrote in the article.
If Republicans confirm Barrett it would tilt the bench 6-3 in favor of conservatives.