House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said today that she believes Democrats regained control of the U.S. House Tuesday by focusing on health care.
“The biggest winner yesterday was health care for the American people, for our seniors and our hard-working American families,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “Yesterday, health care was on the ballot, and health care won.”
Pelosi said House Democrats began focusing on health policy issues shortly after the general elections two years ago, because they believed they had a responsibility to protect the Affordable Care Act.
Democrats knew health care would be a good issue to focus on, because health care is so critical, and because protection against health care costs is so important to families’ economic security, Pelosi said.
Pelosi, who is the leading candidate to become the speaker of the House in January, said a former House speaker, Tip O’Neill, is famous for coming up with the saying, “All politics is local.”
“When it comes to health care,” Pelosi said, “all politics is personal.”
Health care affects every household in America, Pelosi said.
Pelosi said Republicans made statements that suggested that programs such as the Social Security Disability Insurance program and access to affordable health coverage for people with preexisting conditions were on the chopping block.
In spite of Republican efforts to distract and divide the Democrats, “our candidates kept their focus,” Pelosi said. “Voters delivered a resounding verdict against congressional Republicans’ attacks on Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act, and people with preexisting conditions.”
Pelosi said House Democrats worked well with former President George W. Bush in 2007 and 2008, when she was the House speaker.
She suggested that one issue Democrats and Republicans could work together on today might be efforts to bring down prescription drug costs.
She said one way Republicans could show that they want to make a good faith effort to work with Democrats would be to withdraw Texas et al. v. USA et al., a federal lawsuit now being heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
Republican officials in Texas and other states oppose the ACA “individual mandate” — the provision that requires many individuals to own major medical coverage. The Republican officials assert in Texas v. USA that they now have the legal ability to get the individual mandate nullified, because mandate no longer leads to a penalty, can no longer be classified as a tax, and can no longer enjoy the protection of the federal Anti-Injunction Act.
The Anti-Injunction Act keeps taxpayers from suing to block federal taxes before the taxes are imposed.
The plaintiffs in the Texas v. USA case also assert that, if the court throws out any part of the ACA, it should throw out all of the ACA, because the ACA includes no “savings clause” that would allow the rest of the act to survive if one part were blocked.
The administration of President Donald Trump has asked the Texas court to let most of the ACA survive but to let the individual mandate — and the ACA restrictions on use of personal health information to adjust individual major medical insurance prices — die.
Pelosi said it’s wrong for Republicans not to defend the ACA.
Some Democrats in Congress want to create a fully government-funded, government-run “Medicare for all” health care system. Others want to leave the existing health care system mostly as is, or to try to expand access to health coverage and health care by relying mainly on extensions of existing programs.
During the press conference, Pelosi did not talk about the specific kinds of health policy measures she would like to see House Democrats propose.
The President’s Press Conference
Trump said at a press conference of his own that he thinks that, in some ways, having Democrats in charge in the House might make health care legislation negotiations simpler.
In the past, Trump said, negotiators would have to come up a proposal that would appeal both to House Republicans and to the 10 moderate Democratic senators needed to get a bill get through the Senate.
“We [the Republicans] stick together,” Trump said. “Great. We get to the Senate, and we don’t have the 10 votes. And then what happens? [The bill] doesn’t get passed. Even if it gets out of the House, it doesn’t get passed.”
Trump said that the ACA individual mandate is unfair to people who can’t afford the kind of coverage required by the mandate.
“Getting rid of the individual mandate is a very, very popular thing, and a very important thing, and people very much appreciate it,” Trump said.
Trump said that his people at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Labor are coming up with good alternatives.
“We are working on many plans for health care and creating tremendous competition,” Trump said.
A video of Pelosi’s press conference is available here.
A video of Trump’s press conference is available here, on the C-SPAN.org website.
— Read Trump’s Team Asks Court to Let ACA Underwriting Rules Die in 2019, on ThinkAdvisor.