Democrats press Barr over Trump’s war on Obamacare

Democratic lawmakers pressed Attorney General William Barr in a contentious hearing Tuesday over the Justice Department’s lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act that, if it prevails, would cause millions of Americans to lose their health care coverage.

“If you’re successful, 12 million people nationally and 750,000 people in my home state of Pennsylvania who have coverage under the medicaid expansion would also likely lose that coverage,” Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Pa. said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill. “Am I correct in that, sir?”

Barr responded with his own question.

“Do you think it’s likely we are going to prevail?” Barr asked.

Cartwright countered that Barr is devoting the Justice Department's "scarce resources” to the case.

“I’m just saying, if you think it’s such an outrageous position, you have nothing to worry about,” Barr said. “Let the courts do their job.”

In a legal brief filed last month, the Justice Department signaled support of a recent district court decision in Texas that ruled the ACA unconstitutional. The ruling was immediately appealed and is likely to make its way to the Supreme Court. The Trump administration, which initially said Obamacare’s insurance protections should be struck down as unconstitutional, is now seeking to overturn the ACA in its entirety.

Cartwright noted that if the law was struck down millions of people who get their coverage through the ACA marketplace would lose their coverage and “tens of millions more would see their premiums skyrocket.”

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William Barr through the years
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William Barr through the years
FILE - In this Nov. 12, 1991 file photo, then Attorney General nominee William Barr is shown on Capitol Hill in Washington. Barr once advised the U.S. government that it could attack Iraq without Congressional approval, arrest a deposed foreign dictator and capture suspects abroad without that country’s permission. Those decisions reflect a broad view of presidential power that Barr, President Donald Trump's pick to reclaim his old attorney general job, demonstrated at the Justice Department and in the years since. (AP Photo/John Duricka)
U.S. President George H. Bush signs into law new civil rights guarantees for women and minorities at a Rose Garden ceremony, Thursday, Nov. 21, 1991 in Washington, as Vice President Dan Quayle, left, and Acting Attorney General William Barr look on. The bill signing capped a two-year struggle with congress over whether the legislation encouraged job quotas. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
U.S. President George H. Bush, right, and William Barr wave after Barr was sworn in as the new Attorney General of the United States, Tuesday, Nov. 26, 1991 at a Justice Department ceremony in Washington. (AP Photo/Scott Applewhite)
U.S. President George H. Bush gestures while talking to Attorney General William Barr in the Oval Office of the White House, Monday, May 4, 1992 in Washington. The President met with top domestic Cabinet officers to tackle long-range problems pushed to the forefront by last week's deadly riots in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcy Nighswander)
Board member of MCI Telecommunications, Nicholas Katzenbach, second left, speaks at hearing before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary on "The WorldCom Case: Looking at Bankruptcy and Competition Issues" on Capitol Hill in Washington Tuesday, July 22, 2003. Witnesses are, from left, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of Verizon Communications William Barr, Katzenbach, Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP's Marcia Goldstein, Communications Workers of America President Morton Bahr, National Bankruptcy Conference Vice-Chair Douglas Baird, Cerberus Capital Management Chief Operation Officer Mark Neporent. (AP Photo/Akira Ono)
Former Georgia Congressman Bob Barr, left, listens as William Redpath, Libertarian Party national chairman, answers a question at a news conference in Oklahoma City, Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2007. (AP Photo)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, left, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee member and Trump confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, arrives to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee member and Trump confidant Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Donald Trump's attorney general nominee, William Barr, right, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019. Barr, who served in the position in the early 1990s, has a confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee next week and could be in place at the Justice Department as soon as February when Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein leaves after Barr is confirmed. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Attorney General nominee William Barr , left, turns to answer a reporter's question as he arrives to meet with Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2019 in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
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Later in the hearing, the attorney general again dismissed criticism of the lawsuit.

“I hear members of the committee basically saying, you’ve taken this legal position, and it can have bad policy consequences,” Barr said.

“As an attorney general you take positions based on the law, and you litigate them in court and the court makes the decision. So if this was such a hokey position to take, what are you worried about?”

“What am I worried about?” Rep. Charlie Crist, D-Fla., asked. “What I’m worried about are the people I work for: the American people. And the people you work for, sir. And it’s our duty around here to look out for their best interests as public servants.”

Barr said that the administration is “very worried” about them.

“The president has made clear that he wants a strong health care legislation and he wants to protect pre-existing conditions,” he said.

“Worries about it so much that you’re pursuing a case that would take it away from them,” Crist shot back. “The irony of that is rich.”

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