During an unannounced visit to Arlington Cemetery Saturday, President Donald Trump called a Texas judge’s ruling that would invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act “a big, big victory.”
Trump spoke to reporters briefly during an annual event in which wreaths are laid on the graves of soldiers.
“It was a big, big victory by a highly respected judge, highly, highly respected in Texas,” Trump said of the Friday night opinion in which Judge Reed O’Connor concluded the law is unconstitutional now that the individual mandate penalty has been repealed.
However, many legal experts have faulted O’Connor’s reasoning and his argument that the individual mandate cannot be severed from the rest of the law. In the tax cut bill passed last December, Republicans eliminated the penalty for not purchasing insurance, but they left the rest of the law in place.
“The legal arguments in previous rounds of litigation over the ACA may have been weak, but they were not frivolous,” wrote Nicholas Bagley, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School in The Washington Post. “This case is different; it’s an exercise of raw judicial activism. Don’t for a moment mistake it for the rule of law.”
Several Democratic state attorneys general have already indicated they plan to appeal O’Connor’s decision, and even some critics of the ACA are skeptical it will survive review by higher courts. All five Supreme Court justices who upheld the ACA last time a challenge was brought before them are still sitting on the court.
If O’Connor’s ruling does stand, though, Trump predicted he would work with Democrats to produce “great, great health care for our people.”
“We’ll sit down with the Democrats, if the Supreme Court upholds, we’ll be sitting down with the Democrats and we will get great health care for our people, that’s a repeal and replace, handled a little bit differently,” he said.
O'Connor's ruling came the night before the deadline to sign up for insurance on the ACA exchanges for 2019. Despite the decision, the Department of Health and Human Services stressed Saturday that the law remains in effect and plans can still be purchased for next year until midnight.
While he was at the cemetery, Trump also mentioned he supports a plan to expand the property.
"We're look to expand Arlington National Cemetery by acquiring land around it. It's working out pretty well. We're working very hard on it. We'll get it done. They need it. They need it," he said.