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Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A group of Senate Republicans are responding to the latest Affordable Care Act lawsuit with a bill that would replace the pre-existing conditions protections the lawsuit would throw out.

Why it matters: While likely to be good politics heading into midterms, the GOP bill would both lower premiums and leave sick people less protected than they currently are. This is the circle that the party has been unable to square for a year and a half now.

Driving the news: The bill, led by Sen. Thom Tillis, reaffirms some of the pre-existing conditions regulations that would be gutted if the Justice Department's argument prevails in court. Oral arguments for the case begin Sept. 5.

  • The bill requires insurers to provide coverage to people with pre-existing conditions and prohibits insurers on the individual market (but not the small group market) from charging those people higher premiums.
  • But unlike under the ACA, insurers could exclude coverage of the services associated with pre-existing conditions. The Justice brief argues all three ACA provisions should be invalidated.
  • "It’s a very imperfect replacement for the ACA provisions that would be thrown out in the Texas case if you’re goal is to protect people with pre-existing conditions," said Kaiser's Larry Levitt.

Between the lines: While this bill doesn't need to be perfectly written to work as a political statement, it does illustrate the tension that the party has faced since it began its ACA replacement work last year: Pre-existing conditions protections are both the most expensive and the most popular part of the ACA.

  • "It’s an intelligent political response to the continued criticism that Democrats are charging — that Republicans are not supportive of pre-existing conditions," said Chris Condeluci, a Republican health care lawyer.
  • Yet time and again, Republicans have put forward ideas that would keep pre-existing conditions protections in name but weaken them compared to current law, usually in an attempt to get costs down.

What they're saying: The bill has already drawn criticism from Democrats. "If you still doubted that the issue of the cycle is health care, look no further than the panicked GOP effort to cover up their tracks on the defining issue of the cycle," said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman David Bergstein.

  • Tillis spokesman Adam Webb responds: "This twenty page bill is not comprehensive health care legislation...This legislation protects Americans with pre-existing conditions so that they cannot be denied coverage or charged more based on health status – two of the central protections contested in Texas vs. United States."

Go deeper

Virginia attorney general fires Jan. 6 investigator from university post

McIntire Amphitheater at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. Photo: Robert Knopes/UCG/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The lead investigator for the Jan. 6 House select committee investigating the Capitol riot has been fired from his position as the University of Virginia's counsel by the state's new Republican attorney general, per the Washington Post.

Why it matters: Democrats say the removal of Tim Heaphy from his post after some three years while he's on leave from the university to investigate the insurrection is likely "retribution" for the House probe — an accusation strongly denied by the office of state Attorney General Jason Miyares (R).

4 hours ago - World

Taiwan's military scrambles jets after detecting 39 Chinese warplanes

J-20 stealth fighter jets in Zhuhai in the Guangdong Province of China last year. Photo: Chen Jimin/China News Service via Getty Images

Taiwan's defense force said 39 Chinese warplanes flew into its Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) on Sunday.

Why it matters: The largest Chinese air force incursion into the zone since October came a day after the U.S. and Japanese navies conducted a joint exercise in the Philippine Sea.

5 hours ago - Sports

Gonzaga University revokes NBA great John Stockton's tickets over mask stance

Former Utah Jazz player John Stockton during a 2017 press conference in Salt Lake City. Photo: Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

Gonzaga University suspended the season tickets of notable alumni John Stockton after the NBA Hall of Famer failed to comply with the school's basketball games mask mandate, the Spokesman-Review first reported.

Driving the news: "Basically, it came down to, they were asking me to wear a mask to the games and being a public figure, someone a little bit more visible, I stuck out in the crowd a little bit," the former Utah Jazz point guard told the outlet in an interview Saturday.