WASHINGTON ― Brett Kavanaugh said Wednesday that he couldn’t give assurances that he would uphold pre-existing condition requirements under Obamacare as constitutional if confirmed to the Supreme Court.
“I can’t give assurances on a specific hypothetical,” Kavanaugh said, adding that his declining to speak on the matter is consistent with how other nominees have discussed issues they may rule on in the future. An independent-minded judge, he argued, can’t tip their hand before litigants have appeared in court.
Democrats and advocates fear the conservative appellate judge, who was nominated to the high court by President Donald Trump, will overturn Obamacare’s pre-existing condition protections, taking the country back to a time when insurance companies could deny consumers coverage. Trump pushed for legislation last year in Congress that would have repealed the law, but the measure was narrowly defeated.
“Republicans are trying to jam through a Supreme Court nominee who was selected specifically because he would overturn Roe v. Wade and end protections for people with pre-existing conditions,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told reporters on Wednesday.
Obamacare is a highly explosive issue the Supreme Court could be asked to review for a third time in the near future. Trump’s Justice Department has said it will not defend the law against pending challenges from the states. Officials from 20 Republican-controlled states argued in a Texas court on Wednesday that the law should be invalidated entirely because its individual mandate had been repealed by the GOP tax law last year.
But Kavanaugh told senators during his confirmation hearing on Wednesday that he could not comment on that case because it is still pending.
“The fix is in,” Brad Woodhouse, executive director of health care group Protect Our Care, said in a statement. “If anyone still thinks that Trump’s position in the Texas case and the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to the court is simply a coincidence - drop me a line - I have some ocean front property for you in Kansas.”
Key moderate senators are watching Kavanaugh’s comments closely, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who has warned about the disastrous effect Obamacare’s repeal could have on residents of his state. The West Virginia Democrat, who is facing a tough re-election fight in November, was spotted at Kavanaugh’s hearing earlier on Wednesday, even though he does not serve on the judiciary committee where it is being held.
When asked if he’s heard anything objectionable in Kavanaugh’s testimony so far, Manchin told CNN on Wednesday, “I haven’t seen anything from that standpoint. He’s handled himself very professionally.”