Senate Should Prioritize Public Health, Not Rush to Fill Supreme Court Seat

The following is a statement from Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

The stakes are too high to rush a Supreme Court confirmation. On November 10, the Supreme Court will hear arguments about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since it was passed ten years ago, the ACA has given more than 20 million Americans health insurance. With a single decision, the Court could erase the Affordable Care Act, leaving us a sicker and poorer nation in a time of crisis. The Affordable Care Act is a critical lifeline for many families and to rip it away from them during a public health emergency would be unconscionable. A rushed Supreme Court nomination process could have disastrous consequences for people with low incomes related to immigration, labor, women’s rights, and more in addition to health care access.

During a pandemic that has already claimed the lives of over 200,000 Americans, a crippling recession that has left millions out of work, and a national reckoning over racial injustice, the Senate should focus its efforts on supporting the health and well-being of the public instead of rushing to fill a seat on the Supreme Court. Congress’s failure to pass another coronavirus relief package has already had devastating consequences, and further inaction will only worsen the crises. 

Before the pandemic, the number of uninsured  Americans was already increasing, and since the onset of COVID-19, millions of people who lost their jobs in the past few months have also lost their employer-based health insurance.  Estimates suggest between 10 to 30 million workers and their families may lose their health insurance in 2020. Importantly, the harsh economic and health consequences of the coronavirus have disproportionately affected immigrants, people of color, and people with low incomes as a result of systemic racism and barriers to health care and economic opportunity. 

Instead of rushing to fill a Supreme Court seat, the Senate should negotiate a coronavirus relief package that adequately responds to the scale of the crisis. The package must comprehensively support the needs of individuals, families, and states while effectively combatting inequity.