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Bay State Delegation Assails Trump Administration Bid To Upend Obamacare02:19
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Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act Friday, March 24, 2017, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
Protesters gather across the Chicago River from Trump Tower to rally against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act Friday, March 24, 2017, in Chicago. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)
This article is more than 1 year old.

Members of the Massachusetts delegation have vowed to protect the Affordable Care Act and broaden its protections in the face of a new Justice Department effort to eliminate the law.

Rep. Joseph Kennedy III responded angrily to President Trump’s claim that Republicans are now the party of health care after the Justice Department's abrupt decision to urge a federal court to strike down the law, also known as Obamacare, in its entirety.

The Newton Democrat told WBUR that while Democrats have put forward a litany of bills to make health care better and more affordable, Republicans have focused only on undermining existing protections.

“Republicans, and particularly this administration, have shown yet again that their protection for the sick, the elderly, the folks in need of health care — which by the way is going to every single American at some point in this country, every single one of us — is essentially hollow,” Kennedy said.

Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the Democratic caucus, said the Justice Department’s move belies Trump’s claim that Republicans will provide better health care for Americans. The DOJ previously urged the court to strike down only some provisions of the law while leaving most of it intact.

“It took this administration one day, one work day, to flip back to their true agenda, one their true priorities, which is taking away health care from millions of Americans,” the Melrose Democrat said during the weekly House leadership press conference. “One day it took them to get back on their message of what they are truly trying to do to American families.”

Soon after the Justice Department reversed its position in the legal fight over Obamacare, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats unveiled a plan to bolster Obamacare.

Kennedy, who is a co-sponsor of the House Medicare for All bill, said he sees no conflict between that and efforts to strengthen Obamacare, which he says he also supports. He pointed out that Democrats have offered a wide variety of plans, including expanding Medicare providing better mental hath coverage, while Republicans have offered no plan at all in the event Obamacare is struck down by the courts.

“Health care is complicated and health care is personal, but what you have out of a Democratic Party is a commitment to try to make progress and make this better,” he said.

Trump said a plan was in the works, and doubled down on his contention that the GOP was the party to deliver better health care to Americans.

“So we're coming up with plans,” Trump said, speaking Wednesday from the White House. “And if the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we will have a plan that's far better than Obamacare.”

Kennedy, a member of the House Energy & Commerce Committee that vets health care bills, says Congress could follow the Massachusetts’ lead and push for bipartisan reforms — if only his colleagues across the aisle were willing.

“When you have a bipartisan commitment, as we have had going back to Gov. Romney and carried on through Gov. Baker, when you have a bipartisan commitment to do this, you can do it pretty well.”

Correction: This article has been corrected to reflect the correct hometown for Joseph Kennedy III. We regret the error.

This article was originally published on March 28, 2019.

This segment aired on March 28, 2019.

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Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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