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.
“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.
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.