News & Politics

'It's a Gut Punch': Senior DOJ Lawyer Resigns in Response to Trump's Newest Attack on Obamacare: Report

The Trump administration is committed to making the Affordable Care Act fail.

Photo Credit: U.S. Southern Command

President Donald Trump's administration has taken the aggressive step of refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act — otherwise known as Obamacare — in court, and a new report suggests that a senior Justice Department lawyer has now resigned in protest of the decision. 

The Washington Post reports that Joel McElvain, a longtime DOJ lawyer who worked on defenses of the law in court, submitted his resignation letter last week. Sources told the Post that his decision "highlights internal frustration generated by the decision" to undermine Obamacare.

The Justice Department typically views itself as obligated to defend legislation passed by Congress in court, even if the administration opposes that legislation in principle. As long as it is the law of the land, the reasoning goes, the executive branch has the responsibility to uphold and defend a policy.

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But Attorney General Jeff Sessions, in concert with Trump, decided to take the rare step of refusing to defend Obamacare against its latest court challenge, which targets the law's requirement that all Americans obtain health insurance. This challenge is particularly dubious, given that the Supreme Court has already ruled on the constitutionality of the mandate and Congress recently voted to eliminate the fine imposed for failing to purchase insurance.

There is some precedent for the decision, however. President Barack Obama's administration stopped defending the Defense of Marriage Act, which barred federal recognition of state-sanctioned same-sex marriages, because of its opposition to the law.

“This is the first I’m hearing it, and it’s a gut punch,” one colleague of Elvain's told the Post of his resignation. The colleague said his departure would hurt morale.

Cody Fenwick is a reporter and editor. Follow him on Twitter @codytfenwick.