Gardner sides with Democrats on pro-ACA measure in what critics call a ‘stunt’

Hickenlooper: ‘He’s trying to see if he can fool us’

By: - October 1, 2020 4:30 pm

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, left, and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) head to the Senate floor on Dec. 17, 2018, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Cory Gardner joined several other vulnerable Republican senators today in voting with Democrats on a pro-Affordable Care Act measure. The measure, had it succeeded, would have been a step toward barring the U.S. Department of Justice from supporting a lawsuit the U.S. Supreme Court will take up in November that aims to repeal the ACA, also known as Obamacare. 

Gardner and Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Martha McSally of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, both of Alaska, voted for the measure. Sen. Michael Bennet voted in favor of the measure, as well, as did the chamber’s other 46 Democrats.

The measure received 51 votes, a majority of the Senate but short of the 60 votes it needed to advance. 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was able to force a vote on the mostly symbolic measure, despite GOP control of the chamber, putting vulnerable Republicans on record barely a month before the election. Democrats have made protections for people with pre-existing conditions, a popular core provision of the Affordable Care Act, a central issue in the elections.


For vulnerable Republicans like Gardner, the vote was a lose-lose situation. Vote against the measure, and Democrats get to continue their attacks for undermining protections for people with pre-existing conditions. 

Instead, Democrats slammed the Republicans who voted “yes” for supporting the continuation of the ACA while supporting the confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett, President Donald Trump’s nominee to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court, who wrote an essay in 2017 arguing that Chief Justice John Roberts “pushed the Affordable Care Act beyond its plausible meaning to save the statute” in his 2012 opinion preserving the landmark health care law. 

Gardner is up for reelection in November. His Democratic opponent, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, seized on Thursday’s vote as an instance of hypocrisy.

“First Cory Gardner introduced a stunt bill that doesn’t actually protect people with pre-existing conditions so he could run a deceptive TV ad,” Hickenlooper said in a statement. “But Coloradans didn’t buy it, so now he’s trying to see if he can fool us with an 11th-hour stunt vote while still planning to confirm a U.S. Supreme Court Justice who will likely be the deciding vote in Trump’s lawsuit to overturn the Affordable Care Act and all of its protections in the middle of a pandemic.”

Hickenlooper also tweeted that the Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had given Garnder “a hall pass” to vote with Democrats.

Representatives for Gardner did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit against the ACA on Nov. 10, seven days after the election. Ginsburg’s death and her replacement with Barrett could tilt the court’s balance against the law.

Gardner has indicated strong support for Barrett’s nomination. In a tweet on Tuesday he posted a photo of himself meeting with Barrett, whom he described as “a highly qualified jurist.”

Today’s Senate vote comes just over a week before Colorado election officials send mail ballots to Colorado voters on Oct. 9. The Colorado Sun reports that “every poll since October 2019” has shown Gardner trailing in the race.

The ACA lawsuit, originally brought by Republican governors and attorneys general, will move forward in the Supreme Court, regardless of whether the Justice Department continues its involvement.

Colorado Newsline staff contributed to this report.

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is associate editor of the Arizona Mirror, a Phoenix-based sister outlet of Colorado Newsline.