Sen. Dick Durbin: Obamacare ruling ‘once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot’

PHOTO: Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 28, 2018.PlayJ. Scott Applewhite/AP
WATCH Top Senate Dem: Potential shutdown 'entirely in the hands of President Donald Trump'

Just days after a federal judge in Texas ruled that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, the Senate minority whip said Sunday the ruling is bad news for Republicans in Congress.

"It once again puts Republicans in Washington on the spot," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" Sunday. "If you're going to take away the Affordable Care Act, how will you protect the millions of people currently using it for health insurance for their family?"

PHOTO: Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 28, 2018. J. Scott Applewhite/AP
Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with reporters at the Capitol in Washington, Aug. 28, 2018.

Judge Reed O'Connor, appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in 2007 by former President George W. Bush, ruled that the individual mandate is illegal and therefore the entire law is unconstitutional. He did not issue an injunction, however, and the law remains in place pending appeal.

President Donald Trump tweeted twice late Friday that the ruling, which throws the health care of millions covered under the law into flux, is "Great news for America!" and said that “Mitch and Nancy” need to "get it done," suggesting that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and incoming House speaker Nancy Pelosi pass new health care legislation.

Former President Barack Obama posted messages on social media encouraging Americans to enroll by Sunday's open enrollment deadline, despite the ruling.

"You might have heard about a federal court decision on a Republican lawsuit trying to strike down the Affordable Care Act in its entirety," Obama wrote on Facebook and then shared on Twitter. "That can be a scary thing to hear, particularly if you or someone you care about has a pre-existing condition. And that’s why it’s so important for you to know that last night’s ruling changes nothing for now. As this decision makes its way through the courts, which will take months, if not years, the law remains in place and will likely stay that way."

PHOTO: President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act into law in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010. Charles Dharapak/AP, FILE
President Barack Obama is applauded after signing the Affordable Care Act into law in the East Room of the White House on March 23, 2010.

Durbin said that Democrats would be "happy" to sit down and talk about new health care legislation, but that "you have to look at the history," which is that the "president for two years has done everything in his power to put an end to the protections included."

Republicans in Congress are already facing a precarious political fight over government funding, which will expire on Dec. 21. Trump said last week that he would be "proud" to shut down the government over border wall funding.

Durbin said that the shutdown is "entirely in the hands of President Donald Trump, who bragged last week that this was his decision."

He added that Congress should be looking at other border issues and that a wall would do "virtually nothing" to stem drug trafficking, namely the influx of fentanyl. Durbin cited a Centers for Disease Control report released on Wednesday that said fentanyl has become the drug most associated with overdoses in the U.S.

"We could be scanning vehicles coming into the United States to see if they contain contraband, narcotics, firearms, even victims of human trafficking," he said.

He also said Democrats are trying to give the Department of Homeland Security what they need, including putting $1.3 billion on the table for "barriers," though he noted that the "barriers" are defined in such a way "so we aren’t building some medieval wall."

The Trump administration has asked for $5 billion in funding to construct a border wall, and Trump has continued threats to close the government just as investigations into his associates heated up.

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