WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s surprise decision to press for a court-ordered demolition of the Affordable Care Act came after a heated meeting in the Oval Office on Monday, where his acting chief of staff and others convinced President Trump that he could do through the courts what he could not do through Congress: Repeal his predecessor’s signature achievement.
Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff and former South Carolina congressman, had spent years in the House saying that the health law should be repealed, and his handpicked head of the Domestic Policy Council, Joe Grogan, supported the idea of joining a Republican attorneys general lawsuit to invalidate the entire Affordable Care Act.
That suit, and the Justice Department, initially pressed to nullify only the part of the law that forces insurance companies to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions as well as a suite of health benefits deemed “essential,” such as pregnancy and maternal health, mental health and prescription drugs.
But a district judge in Texas ruled that the entire law was rendered unconstitutional when President Trump’s tax law brought the tax penalty for not having health insurance to zero, and the administration faced a choice: Stick with its more limited intervention or back the judge’s decision.
Mr. Trump has touted that he has kept his promises, Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Grogan argued, and as a candidate, they said, he campaigned on repealing the health law. His base of voters would love it. Besides, they argued, Democrats have been campaigning successfully on health care, and Republicans should try to take it over themselves. This could force the issue.
Among those with concerns was Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, who shared that it was opposed by the new attorney general, William P. Barr. Vice President Mike Pence was concerned about the political ramifications of moving ahead without a strategy or a plan to handle the suddenly uninsured if the suit succeeds.
That meeting was followed by a smaller one, where Mr. Mulvaney and Mr. Cipollone were among those voicing different opinions. But Mr. Trump had been sold, and on Monday night, the Justice Department issued a statement saying it supports the Texas judge’s decision.
On Wednesday, Mr. Trump doubled down on his support for the Texas suit while talking to reporters in the Oval Office.
“If the Supreme Court rules that Obamacare is out, we’ll have a… Source: In Divided White House, Trump Sided With Mulvaney in Push for Nullifying Health Act