WASHINGTON -- It's only the second week of the 116th Congress, but Democrats are already trying to put Republicans on record on protecting people with pre-existing health conditions.
Democrats made health care a major issue in the 2018 midterms on their way to picking up a net of 40 seats and taking control of the House. A vote Wednesday to defend the 2010 health care law -- designed in part to illustrate Republicans' opposition to it -- is a sign Democrats see the issue as one that can help them hold their majority in 2020.
"In November, the American people delivered a new Democratic House Majority with a stern message for Washington: Republicans' attacks on health care must end," Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement last week announcing a standalone vote to defend the 2010 law, which will complete consideration of the broader House rules package.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer told reporters Tuesday that Republicans who claim they're for protecting pre-existing conditions have an opportunity to prove it Wednesday as the House votes on Title III of Democrats' rules package for the new Congress. (The House passed Titles I and II last week.)
Title III authorizes the general counsel on behalf of the speaker and the House to intervene in the Texas v. United States case, which is in the appeals process after a federal judge struck down the 2010 law as unconstitutional.
The measure also authorizes the general counsel "to protect the institutional interests of the House" by defending the constitutionality of the law, "including the provisions ensuring affordable health coverage for those with pre-existing conditions," in any other suits that may arise.
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While the vote is not a requirement for the House to intervene in the Texas case -- House General Counsel Douglas Letter has already filed a motion expressing the chamber's interest in upholding the law -- it's meant to affirm members' support for doing so.
Democrats are painting the vote as a test of whether lawmakers actually support the law's protections for pre-existing conditions. To that end, the rule includes language on House findings that up to 133 million non-elderly Americans have some type of pre-existing health condition and that without the 2010 law's guaranteed issue and community rating protections "millions of Americans could once again lose access to affordable, comprehensive health insurance."
Throughout the 2018 campaign, Republicans maintained that they supported protections for pre-existing conditions. Hoyer said Wednesday's vote will allow them to "defend what they say they are for."
Republicans were quick to accuse Democrats of playing politics.