WASHINGTON (CN) — One week after Americans head to the polls in November to decide the next president, the Supreme Court in the midst of a global pandemic will hear the Trump administration’s challenge to the Affordable Care Act.
But with President Donald Trump set to shift the high court to a 6-3 conservative majority, Senate Democrats warned Wednesday that millions of Americans’ health care hangs in the balance as a feverish nomination process kicks off.
“The courts are the lynchpin in the Republicans’ anti-health care and anti-choice agenda,” Senator Tammy Baldwin told reporters.
If the high court overturns the ACA, around 135 million Americans with pre-existing conditions could lose protections under the landmark statute.
The ruling could have similarly devastating effects for 17 million people under the Medicaid expansion and women who are protected from higher insurance rates and ensured maternity care, cancer screenings and contraception.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said it should come as no surprise that Republicans are preparing to ram through a right-wing nominee “in near record time when they have ignored the pain and suffering of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
Senate Democrats launched a campaign Tuesday to spur the American people to oppose Trump’s nominee, focusing on what’s at stake with the new vacancy left by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death on Friday.
In a series of reports on various hot issues before the court, beginning with health care Wednesday, they plan to turn a spotlight on how the GOP has “captured the courts.”
They argue Republicans are working hand-in-hand with right-wing organizations like the Federalist Society and the Judicial Crisis Network to pack the courts with “advocacy judges” who represent big special interests to roll back rulings that protect health care, the environment and voting rights.
“The pattern is clear: over and over by 5-4 partisan decisions, the Roberts court has chipped away at many of the rights Justice Ginsburg defended her entire career,” Baldwin said.
The Wisconsin senator repeatedly said Wednesday that the stakes couldn’t be higher following Ginsburg’s death, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicating he plans to put Trump’s nominee to a vote by the end of October ahead of the presidential election.
Trump plans to announce his pick to fill a third Supreme Court seat in his first term on Saturday. From there, the Senate Judiciary Committee will pick up the nominee before the full Senate votes to confirm.
Baldwin argued that Republicans, with McConnell at the helm as the president’s field general for landing conservative judges on the federal bench, have used opposition to the Affordable Care Act and Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for judicial nominees.
In a newly released report, Democrats point to Judge Justin Walker, who joined the D.C. Circuit this month, as an example of the Trump administration handpicking judges who will attack the ACA.
During his nomination hearing, Walker shrugged off questions about his support for Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s dissenting opinion in Seven-Sky v. Holder in which he argued as a D.C. Circuit judge at the time that the appeals court lacked jurisdiction to hear a challenge to the ACA.
Writing for The Federalist, a conservative online magazine, Walker in 2018 called the Supreme Court upholding the ACA an “indefensible decision.” Kavanaugh’s dissent had provided a “roadmap to the conclusion reached by the dissenters—that the individual mandate is unconstitutional under the Taxing Clause,” he added.
Seventh Circuit Judge Amy Coney Barrett, another Trump jurist flagged in the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee report, questions whether Roe v. Wade is settled law and condemns birth control made available under the APA as a “grave infringement on religious liberty.”
Barrett, who has emerged as one of the frontrunners for Ginsburg’s seat, wrote in 2017 that Chief Justice John Roberts had “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute.”
Both Walker and Barrett when pressed by Senate Democrats during their confirmation hearings would not commit to recuse themselves from cases involving the APA.
Walker said at the time that he would “take every case case-by-case with an open mind.”
With McConnell loudly declaring plans to move full steam ahead with a Trump nominee, and several GOP senators who were considered possible “no” votes announcing they will support the president’s pick, Democrats are seeking to galvanize public opposition to a sixth conservative justice.
“In the next 30 days we want the public to engage and weigh in about what they think about putting a Supreme Court justice on the bench that will support taking away their health care, taking away their ability to make their own reproductive choices as women and all of the other things that are at stake,” Baldwin told reporters.