Peter Urban  / ctnewsjunkie photo
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (Peter Urban / ctnewsjunkie photo)

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy made clear Tuesday that the Affordable Care Act will remain front-and-center as a campaign issue for Senate Republicans facing re-election in 2020.

“I think Republicans act at their peril in the Senate believing that they can continue business as usual fighting the ACA after what happened in 2018,” he said. “If they keep this up that’s a pretty quick pathway to the minority.”

Murphy’s remarks came at a Capitol press conference Tuesday morning where Senate Democrats were highlighting a pending judicial confirmation vote for Chad Readler to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

As Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Readler was the lead attorney on the Trump administration’s brief in Texas v. United States arguing to jettison the Affordable Care Act along with the protections it affords to people with pre-existing conditions.

If successful, the argument made by Readler would be catastrophic to the 130 million Americans living with a pre-existing condition, Murphy said. They would see “their rates jacked up” to the point where many would be unable to afford to pay their premiums.

Trump nominated Readler to the federal appeals court a day after the brief was filed. Confirming him, Murphy argues would be a clear signal to others in the Justice Department that they will be rewarded if they oppose the ACA’s pre-existing condition protections.

“This is an up or down vote,” he said. “We don’t get these votes very often when protections for people with pre-existing conditions are on the floor of the Senate. This vote this week is one of those occasions.”

A procedural vote on Readler’s nomination was approved by a 53-45 vote Tuesday with a confirmation vote likely to follow later in the week. Ahead of the vote, Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine announced she would oppose Readler. Collins is facing re-election in 2020.

“I will oppose this nomination,” Collins said. “Rather than defend the law and its protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions — such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease — Mr. Readler’s brief in Texas v. United States argued that they should be invalidated,” she said.

Murphy was one of four Senate Democrats who spoke at a Capitol press conference Tuesday on Readler’s nomination. Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York, Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii also spoke against Readler.

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona did not vote.