Democrats renew health care attacks on GOP as virus builds

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Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden arrives to speak with families who have benefited from the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, June 25, 2020, in Lancaster, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

WASHINGTON – Democrats are intensifying their attacks on President Donald Trump and his Republican allies over health care, hoping that an issue that helped lift the party during the 2018 midterms will prove even more resonant as the White House seeks to repeal the Affordable Care Act during a public health crisis.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, told an audience in the swing state of Pennsylvania this week that efforts to undermine the Obama-era health care law were “cruel” and “callous.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Trump “beyond stupid” for trying to roll back the law and introduced legislation that would expand the scope of the overhaul, essentially daring Republicans to vote against it.

The health care law has been a flashpoint in American politics since its enactment a decade ago. Once a cudgel Republicans used against Democrats, the tables have turned as the law — and its protection for preexisting conditions — has become more popular. Democrats believe that their advantage on the issue will only grow as the Trump administration renews its push to nullify the law even as coronavirus infections surge.

“Trying to take away health care in the middle of a pandemic is like throwing out the sandbags during a hurricane,” said Jesse Ferguson, a longtime Democratic strategist. “The pandemic has made clear for people how important it is to them that their neighbors have health care. It’s no longer a nicety that others have health care; it’s now a necessity.”

Still, the Trump administration filed a brief Thursday urging the Supreme Court to strike down the health care law in its entirety, in support of a lawsuit brought by Texas and other conservative states against it. The brief came on a day that the U.S. saw a record number of new coronavirus cases, with 37,077 reported Thursday.

If the lawsuit is successful, some 20 million Americans could lose their health coverage, and protections for people with preexisting health conditions also would be put at risk.

Trump has long expressed a desire to protect those with preexisting conditions but has not said what he would do instead. Even some Republicans say the party should avoid relitigating the issue.

Doug Heye, a longtime Republican strategist, said the Democratic attack ads essentially write themselves.