22 de octubre de 2020
English - News

Democrats put Obamacare at center of Supreme Court debate

By Beatriz Pascual Macias

Washington, Oct 12 (efe-epa).- With the aim of mobilizing US voters 22 days before the Nov. 3 election, Democratic lawmakers on Monday placed the future of former President Barack Obama's health care reform, colloquially known as "Obamacare," in the center of the debate over the make-up of the Supreme Court.

Democrats' objective was to get away from personal attacks on Judge Amy Coney Barrett, nominated to fill the vacant high court seat by President Donald Trump, and focus on Obama's health care reform with an eye toward reminding voters what is in play in the upcoming nationwide balloting.

During the first Senate hearing to evaluate Barrett's nomination, Democrats one after the other showed photos from some of their constituents and described how ending Obamacare could affect them personally, especially in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Sen. Patrick Leahy said that confirming Barrett to the high court could have "catastrophic" consequences for the millions of Americans who, for the first time, were able to get medical insurance thanks to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), otherwise known as Obamacare and approved in 2010.

Leahy, who participated in the hearing by videoconference, showed the photo sent in by a Vermont nurse who is in a wheelchair due to a neurological illness and who fears losing the insurance that helps her pay for her medication.

Called people like her "real people," Leahy said that Barrett poses an imminent threat to Obamacare because on Nov. 10, just a week after the election, the Supreme Court will hold a hearing to decide on the future of health care coverage for millions of citizens.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden followed the same strategy as his fellow Democrats in the Senate and presented Barrett's confirmation process as a referendum on Obamacare and Trump's handling of the pandemic.

In brief remarks to the press before traveling to Ohio, Biden said that Barrett wants to eliminate the ACA, as does Trump, and the issue is about whether millions of Americans are going to lose their health care coverage in "less than a month."

Barrett in the past has expressed her rejection of Obamacare. Specifically, in 2017 she published an essay in which she criticized the 2012 ruling in favor of the law, the majority opinion written by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, who was nominated by former President George W. Bush, a Republican.

Since its approval a decade ago, the GOP has been trying to derail or overturn the law legally by bringing cases to the Supreme Court and also within Congress, where up to now all such efforts have failed.

Trump has done everything possible to nullify Obama's health care reform and, although he has not managed to do so, he has managed to weaken it.

As the Senate hearing was under way, Trump posted comments on Twitter, where he said that the Democrats were taking too much time to ask questions.

He urged Republicans to speed up the process to confirm Barrett before November, which would be a record since never before has a Supreme Court nominee been confirmed so close to a presidential election.

Senate Republicans hold 53 of the chamber's 100 seats and, thus, they have the majority they need to confirm Barrett, which is predicted to happen - regardless of what occurs at the confirmation hearing - in late October in a plenary vote.

First, however, the judge must receive the approval of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which on Monday began four days of hearings with stringent health protocols in place to guard against lawmakers or staffers becoming infected with the coronavirus.

In her initial statement, Barrett said she supported an independent Supreme Court and promised to review the laws "as they are written," that is by following a legal doctrine that interprets the Constitution literally and without taking into account social changes that have occurred in recent decades.

If confirmed by the Senate, Barrett would fill the vacancy left on the high court by the death on Sept. 18 of progressive Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who during her legal career and tenure on the court became a symbol of the fight for gender equality.

Barrett, a 48-year-old Catholic, is the antithesis of Ginsburg on everything having to do with abortion. The late justice protected that right for women at all costs, while the nominee has articulated the stance on a number of occasions in favor of restricting access to abortion.

Barrett's ideas on abortion divide Americans, and a number of people demonstrated at the Senate entrance, on the one side conservative women carrying signs calling for "Amy" to be confirmed, and confronting them dozens of activists demanding a woman's right to choose whether she wants to have an abortion and to be able to get one if she so desires.

According to Capitol police, 22 people were arrested.

In the US, the Supreme Court is made up of nine justices with lifetime appointments who have the power to change laws as cases involving that legislation come before the court.



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