CEDAR RAPIDS — Democrats’ concerns that confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court could spell the end of the Affordable Care Act may be misplaced, according to Sen. Chuck Grassley.
Grassley, a member of the Judiciary Committee that is scheduled to begin hearings on Barrett’s conformation Oct. 12, said Wednesday he has doubts the ACA, also known as Obamacare, will be struck down by the court, at least not in its entirety.
The Iowa Republican met with Barrett on Tuesday and came away convinced that she agrees with his position that “judges should interpret the law and constitution based on written word and legislative history.”
“It is not their job to make law from the bench,” Grassley told reporters. “That’s my responsibility because you can’t vote lifetime appointed judges out of office.”
He pushed back on Democratic suggestions that Republicans are rushing to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg by confirming Barrett, possibly ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Democrats, who hope to control the White House and Senate after the election, have warned that Barrett will be an “anti-ACA justice” who could cast the deciding vote to strike down the ACA.
“I don’t happen to believe the Affordable Care Act is going to be turned down,” Grassley said. “Of course, this is all speculation, but based on severability, most strict constructionists would try to save as much of the law, of a law, including the ACA as they can. So I doubt if it’s going to be struck down, whether she’s on the court or not.”
Severability refers to a doctrine the Supreme Court has often employed to strike down a part of a law, but leave the rest of the statute. In the words of Chief Justice John Roberts, it is the application of “a scalpel rather than a bulldozer.”
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Later, in a floor speech, Grassley called out Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden for refusing to rule out packing the Supreme Court if he defeats President Donald Trump and Democrats control the Senate.
“I understand there are differences of opinion on the direction of the court,” Grassley said. “But threatening to expand the court and pack it with favorable justices because the other side won fair and square and simply followed the Constitution?
“I thought we’d settled this under FDR,” Grassley said about Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt, whose plan to add sympathetic justices to the court was rejected by his own party.
Rather than engage in a “naked power grab ... (because) they couldn’t get the results they wanted at the ballot box,” Grassley said Biden and senators should “remain focused on the political independence of the judiciary and leave the politicking to this branch of government.”
Although he hasn’t always agreed with the court’s decisions and has helped pass laws to correct “misinterpretations” of congressional intent, “I still think that after 240 years I’m not going to argue with success.”
“They’ve been good referees for our system,” Grassley said.
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