As senators on Tuesday grilled Judge Amy Coney Barrett over her views on the Affordable Care Act during the second day of Supreme Court confirmation hearings, Barrett repeatedly said she had no goal to repeal the healthcare law.
Democrats have made Barrett's criticism of an opinion Chief Justice John Roberts wrote upholding the ACA a key tenet of their argument against Barrett's nomination, saying that her confirmation before oral arguments in a case that could determine the fate of the ACA on Nov. 10 could mean invalidation of the entire statute, including protections for patients with preexisting conditions.
Barrett said she does not have a particular goal to overturn the ACA, and that she did not discuss with the White House how she may vote on California v. Texas, a case in which Republican state attorneys general and the Justice Department argue the entire ACA should be invalidated because Congress zeroed out the individual mandate.
"I am not here on a mission here to destroy the Affordable Care Act, I'm just here to apply the law," Barrett told Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).
She specifically addressed Democrats' accusations about protections for preexisting conditions being in jeopardy in a back-and-forth with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah).
"I have said repeatedly under oath that I had no conversations with anyone in the White House about that case, and to the extent that there is a suggestion that I have an agenda that I want to strike down people's protection for preexisting conditions, that's not just not true," Barrett said.
The policy consequences of a decision on the ACA would be Congress' responsibility, Barrett argued.
"I think any issue that would arise under the Affordable Care Act or any other statute should be determined by the law, by the text of the statute, by looking at precedent the same way that it would for anyone. If there were policy differences, or policy consequences, those are for this body," Barrett told Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).
Barrett also said that the legal issues in California v. Texas are different from those in two other key cases where the Supreme Court upheld the ACA. The key issue in California v. Texas is severability, which Barrett said she has not talked about or written about at all. She declined to comment on her opinion on the specific facts in California v. Texas.
A final committee vote on Barrett's nomination is expected on Oct. 22, which will pave the way for a potential confirmation vote on the Senate floor before the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on California v. Texas on Nov. 10.