- The Washington Times - Monday, November 19, 2018

Incoming House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler warned acting Attorney General Matthew G. Whitaker that Democrats will scrutinize the Trump administration’s decision not to defend Obamacare against a state-driven lawsuit in Texas, saying the move appeared to be a “cynical pretext” for launching another repeal attempt.

Mr. Nadler, New York Democrat, noted Democrats have been peppering the Justice Department with a slew of Obamacare-related questions.

“To date, you have provided no substantive response to these letters,” he wrote to Mr. Whitaker, who took over the Justice Department after President Trump demanded Jeff Sessions’ resignation.

Democrats are particularly concerned about the Justice Department’s decision to effectively side with 20 GOP-led states that say Congress’ decision to gut the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate penalty rendered the rest of the law invalid, including its protections for preexisting conditions.

Republicans failed to replace the health law as promised last year, and Mr. Sessions’ own testimony before Congress suggested the administration would defend federal laws vigorously, according to Mr. Nadler.

“This longstanding policy reflects the fundamental structure of our republic: Congress makes the laws and the Executive Branch enforces them,” Mr. Nadler wrote. “The Department of Justice has so far failed to justify its decision to abandon this principle. The litigation appears to be, at best, a cynical pretext for one more try at repealing the ACA.”

Mr. Nadler also wants to know why career Justice Department attorneys removed themselves from the case en masse before Mr. Sessions alerted Congress that he would not defend the health care law.

With Democrats set to retake the House majority, the simmering case in Texas is the main threat to Obamacare, since a legislative repeal will be off the table for at least two years.

U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor seemed sympathetic to anti-Obamacare arguments from the states in late September, saying the law’s mandates and benefits seem to run together. Republicans zeroed out the mandate to hold insurance, effective 2019, in their tax-cut bill earlier this year.

Parties are still waiting on the judge to decide whether he should issue a preliminary injunction that would stop Obamacare in its tracks. That decision could drop any day now.

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