Election '18

Watch Claire McCaskill Skewer Her GOP Opponent For His Duplicity on Pre-Existing Conditions

Josh Hawley is suing to end the ACA while saying he supports its provisions. Sen. Claire McCaskill is having none of it.

Missouri attorney general Josh Hawley, the GOP challenger to Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, is engaged in a bizarre two-step on health care. On one hand, he is part of a multi-state lawsuit urging federal courts to nullify the Affordable Care Act's protections for pre-existing conditions. On the other hand, he is running ads about how urgently he wants to protect coverage for pre-existing conditions.

On Thursday, at a debate in St. Louis, McCaskill called out Hawley for trying to have it both ways.

"We need to fix the problems in Obamacare, not throw it out," McCaskill said. "And his lawsuit is so reckless, because there's no backup here. There's no backup plan for pre-existing conditions if he's successful. If he believes we should protect pre-existing conditions, he should ask tomorrow for the case to be dismissed."

Watch below:

The lawsuit, filed by a coalition of 20 red states, seeks to completely throw out the ACA's consumer protections as unconstitutional, on the frivolous logic that since the individual mandate was repealed, it should all be repealed. If the lawsuit is successful, 52 million people would be in danger of losing their health care.

Hawley, for his part, has claimed that if the ACA is struck down by his lawsuit, he would support replacing it with some vague, unspecified system of reinsurance and federal subsidies. He does not explain how it would work, or why he thinks the ACA is unconstitutional but this proposed replacement would not be.

Hawley's contradictions on pre-existing conditions are symptomatic of the Republican midterm headache writ large. As GOP candidates have realized that the midterms are shaping up to be a referendum on health care, they have tried to rhetorically, if not practically, backpedal from their hardline position that government health care programs should be cut, gutted or repealed. Senate Republicans have sought to reassure voters that the ACA lawsuit will not end coverage for pre-existing conditions, by introducing a bill that pretends to preserve those protections.

McCaskill, who was one of the original senators to vote to pass the ACA, is facing one of the tightest Senate races in the country. The Missouri race is one of ten in which Democratic senators are defending seats carried by President Donald Trump.

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Matthew Chapman is a video game designer, science fiction author, and political reporter from Austin, TX. Follow him on Twitter @fawfulfan.