Biden, Harris address Obamacare, concerns about transition

President-elect Joe Biden speaks to the assembled media members Tuesday in Wilmington. (Delaware State News/Noah Zucker)

WILMINGTON — President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris asserted Tuesday the importance of keeping the Affordable Care Act intact.

The press conference, held at The Queen theater in Wilmington, came just hours after the Supreme Court held oral arguments on the validity of the law, a signature legacy of the Obama presidency that expanded access to health care for millions nationwide.

“Twice already, the Supreme Court has upheld the landmark law, in 2012 and again in 2015,” President-elect Biden said. “The Congress, expressing the popular will of the American people on a bipartisan basis, has rejected numerous attempts by President (Donald) Trump to erase the law.”

He took aim at efforts by President Trump and his allies to have the law deemed unconstitutional.

“In the middle of a deadly pandemic that has infected more than 10 million Americans, nearly one in every 32 Americans, these ideologues are once again trying to strip health coverage away from the American people,” he said.

Vice President-elect Harris said that a Supreme Court ruling against the law could take coverage away from 20 million Americans and eliminate protections for 100 million Americans with preexisting conditions.

“This is all happening at a moment when our country is suffering through a pandemic that has claimed more than 238,000 lives,” she said.

She added that the ACA’s elimination would disproportionately impact women and people of color.

“We all know that if the ACA is struck down, communities of color would be hit particularly hard,” she said.

“They are at a greater risk of preexisting conditions, from asthma to diabetes to lupus. They are also three times as likely to contract COVID-19 and twice as likely to die as others,” she noted.

President-elect Biden said the American people are united in their support for the Affordable Care Act, citing a study released last month.

“Seventy-nine percent of the American people, including nine out of 10 Democrats, eight out of 10 independents and two-thirds of Republicans want to keep the ACA protections for people with preexisting conditions,” he said.

“This doesn’t need to be a partisan issue,” he said. “It’s a human issue that affects every single American family. We can’t subvert the growing consensus of the American people.”

President-elect Biden got personal with his appeal.

“When a family is faced with the awful news of a child’s diagnosis with leukemia or a mom forced to battle against breast cancer, an accident that leaves loved ones unable to live the lives they’ve always known, it stops your heart,” he said.

“It wrenches your world right off its axis when that happens, and many of you know that from personal experience,” the president-elect said.

“In that moment, the very last thing on your mind … should be whether you can afford the treatment,” he said. “The Affordable Care Act was created to put a stop to that inhumanity.”

Although the speech focused on Obamacare, media members gathered in Wilmington were more focused on the transition of power and the current administration’s refusal to earnestly begin that process.

Earlier in the day, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asserted that the only transition happening would be one to a second Trump administration.

“We are already beginning the transition,” President-elect Biden said. “The fact they’re not willing to acknowledge we’ve won at this point is not of much consequence to our planning.”

He said his campaign will be moving in a “consistent manner” to put together the upcoming administration.

“Nothing is going to stop that,” the president-elect said.

He downplayed concerns that the current administration’s refusal to hand over key resources like classified information was hindering the transition process.

“Access to classified information is useful, but I’m not in a position to make decisions on those issues anyways,” the president-elect said. “As I said, one president at a time. He will be president until Jan. 20.”

He said his campaign is “going to be doing exactly what we’d be doing if (President Trump) had conceded.”

When asked if he had spoken to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell about his decision to hold off on recognizing a winner of the election until the Electoral College meets, President-elect Biden reiterated that “there’s only one president at a time” and that the country is “going to have the Electoral College making a judgment in December.”

President-elect Biden added that he has not spoken to Sen. McConnell yet.
“My expectation is that I will do that in the not-too-distant future,” he said.

President-elect Biden said, “The whole Republican party has been put in a position, with a few notable exceptions, of being mildly intimidated by the sitting president.”

But he added that he is not worried about this.

“I think there are enough Republicans who have already spoken out,” he said, and that there will be “a larger number once the election is declared.”

He added that there is “significant pressure” on Republicans to pragmatically deal with health care from their own constituencies.

The president-elect said he couldn’t imagine there not being a willingness among congressional Republicans to come to a consensus on that issue.