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Supreme Court signals Obamacare may survive. Here’s how Democrats say they will try to expand it

Ben Werschkul
·Senior Producer and Writer
·3 min read

During the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated arguments over the Affordable Care Act on Tuesday, the signal from the high court was that President Obama’s landmark law may largely be safe.

Both Justices John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh – one of whom would almost surely be needed to strike down the entirety of the law – indicated they would be inclined keep the law in place, even if they strike down the individual mandate.

“It does seem fairly clear that the proper remedy would be to sever the mandate provision and leave the rest of the act in place,” said Justice Kavanaugh. (The financial penalty was eliminated from the mandate in 2019.)

Democrats breathed an immediate sigh of relief even though the final decision won’t come until next year. And Democratic Party Chairman Tom Perez said there will be aggressive action from the party in 2021 to expand the law.

A demonstrator holds a sign in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC, on November 10, 2020, as the high court opened arguments in the long-brewing case over the constitutionality of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, under which then-president Barack Obama's government sought to extend health insurance to people who could not afford it. - President Donald Trump's outgoing administration took aim in the US Supreme Court Tuesday at razing the "Obamacare" health program his predecessor built, a move which could cancel the health insurance of millions in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)
A demonstrator in front of the Supreme Court on November 10 as the high court opened arguments in the long-brewing case over the constitutionality of the 2010 Affordable Care Act. (NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

“We're going to keep forging ahead because this is what the American people want, and we will start in the House,” he told Yahoo Finance.

While Democrats are set to maintain control of the House of Representatives, the party is facing a battle to take control of the Senate. A continuation of Mitch McConnell as the Senate Majority Leader will likely present a significant stumbling block. But Perez said the party still has a good chance in the runoffs in Georgia and either way claimed, “we're not going to need a lot of Republican help.”

‘Establishing a public option’

Perez said the Democrats won’t be focused on initiatives like Medicare for All, but instead will be “taking the baseline of Obamacare and building off of it: establishing a public option, taking steps to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.”

It’s a continuation of the Democrats’ message from the 2020 campaign, and Perez even noted it had been in the Democratic platform.

A screen plays a video of former president Barack Obama as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez waits to speak during the virtual Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, August 20, 2020.   Kamil Krzaczynski/Pool via REUTERS
Former president Barack Obama is display on screen as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee Tom Perez waits to speak during the virtual Democratic National Convention this summer. (Kamil Krzaczynski/Pool via REUTERS)

Republicans currently control 48 seats in the Senate and lead in two races that remain uncalled from Election Day. Holding those two seats would mean that Republicans just need to win one of the two runoff races in Georgia in January to maintain control even with a Vice President Kamala Harris in office to break ties.

UBS Global Wealth Management’s Chief Investment Officer Mark Haefele recently wrote that Democratic pushes on drug pricing and a public option would be unlikely to succeed in a GOP-controlled Senate. Even moderate legislation on drug prices remains possible, “but the probability of a bipartisan compromise on any health policy legislation is below 50%, in our view,” he wrote

If not 2021, then in the elections of 2022

If the Democrats’ health care efforts indeed fail, the 2022 midterm elections will be focused on the issue, Perez said. Heath care is “what the American people want,” he said. “They voted clearly in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.”

“What is clear is the American people will know this is what Democrats are fighting for and this is what Republicans are fighting against,” said Perez.

Ben Werschkul is a writer and producer for Yahoo Finance in Washington, DC.

Read more:

U.S. Supreme Court justices appear unlikely to strike down Obamacare

Supreme Court's Obamacare arguments: What the justices are set to decide

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