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Supreme Court tea leaf reading: Barrett indicates ObamaCare could survive mandate being struck down

It’s the final day of questioning in Amy Coney Barrett’s Senate confirmation hearing and she has spoken about severability, a key issue in the ongoing Affordable Care Act lawsuit.

Overnight Health Care: Barrett signals ObamaCare could survive mandate being struck down | CDC warns small gatherings fueling COVID spread | Judge blocks Wisconsin capacity limits

Meanwhile, Republicans argue that it’s very unlikely the Supreme Court will overturn the health care law. And the CDC says small gatherings are leading to more COVID-19 cases.

Supreme Court tea leaf reading: Barrett indicates ObamaCare could survive mandate being struck down

At Wednesday’s Supreme Court hearings, Judge Amy Coney Barrett did not say how she would rule in the ObamaCare case that will be before the Supreme Court on Nov. 10, but she noted that judges generally try to save the underlying law when possible.

“The presumption is always in favor of severability,” Barrett said in response to a question from Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.).

Graham appeared to signal he thought ObamaCare could be saved, even if the individual mandate is struck down, as he pressed Barrett on whether the “main thing” was that there was a “presumption” to save an underlying law. Barrett replied: “That’s correct.”

“I want every conservative in the nation to listen to what she just said. The doctrine of severability presumes and its goal is to preserve the statue if that is possible,” Graham added.

When Barrett agreed that it was “true” that judges try to preserve the overall law when weighing if a provision can be removed, one of the key points of debate in the looming ObamaCare case, Graham added: “That’s the law, folks.”

Relatedly….Republicans say the Supreme Court won’t toss ObamaCare

Senate Republicans are downplaying the chances that the Supreme Court will strike down ObamaCare as Democrats seek to hammer the GOP on the issue ahead of the elections.

Republicans — who have spent the past decade trying to eradicate the 2010 law — are dismissing this possibility of the lawsuit succeeding. They argue that Democrats are blowing the chances of the challenge prevailing out of proportion, noting that legal experts across the spectrum have called the lawsuit’s arguments weak.

“No one believes the Supreme Court is going to strike down the Affordable Care Act,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Monday night during his reelection debate with Democrat Amy McGrath.

The big picture: The Republicans’ effort to downplay a challenge to the ACA is striking given their criticism of the Supreme Court’s prior rulings on the controversial law and their legislative moves to repeal it.

But at the same time, congressional Republicans are not directly saying that they oppose the lawsuit, which would mean breaking from President Trump, whose administration is in court in support of the challenge. The lawsuit was brought by 18 Republican state attorneys general.

Small gatherings causing new COVID-19 infections, CDC director warns

Small gatherings are increasingly becoming a source of COVID-19 infection around the country, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Robert Redfield warned governors on a call Tuesday.

Redfield’s comments, according to audio obtained by CNN, come as dozens of states see increases in new COVID-19 cases.

“In the public square, we’re seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions,” Redfield told governors on the call.

“But what we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings,” Redfield said. “Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting.”

The U.S. averaged 52,000 new COVID-19 cases per day over the past seven days, according to a New York Times tracker.

Prashant Tambe
Prashant Tambe
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