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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Vulnerable Republican incumbents face an awkward question on health care: "You say in your campaign that you're committed to protecting insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions; what do you make of the fact that the Trump Justice Department is currently arguing in court to strike down the law forcing insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions?"

Why this matters: Polls consistently show health care is a top issue for midterm voters. Republicans are already on their heels on this issue — a reversal from the previous eight years of easy campaigning against Obamacare — and the Justice Department position pits them face-to-face with an inconvenient reality.

Over the weekend, Axios posed that very question to Republicans Mike Coffman (CO-06), John Culberson (TX-07), Carlos Curbelo (FL-26), Mimi Walters (CA-45), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Kevin Cramer (challenging for North Dakota Senate), Josh Hawley (challenging for Missouri Senate), Martha McSally (challenging for Arizona Senate), Leah Vukmir (challenging for Wisconsin Senate) and Mike Braun (challenging for Indiana Senate).

Of the Republicans who replied, their responses were strikingly similar: All want to mandate that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions, but only one of them disavowed the Justice Department's position.

Some examples:

  • Josh Hawley, who is one of the Republican attorneys general trying to get the whole Affordable Care Act (including pre-existing conditions protections) thrown out: His press secretary Kelli Ford told Axios that "Josh wants Congress to mandate that insurance companies cover everyone with pre-existing conditions. Senator Claire McCaskill would have you believe that the only way to do it is through Obamacare. That's a lie...Josh is committed to covering those with pre-existing conditions, and we don't have to break the Constitution to do it."
  • Carlos Curbelo: His campaign spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez told Axios that "if Congress must take action to ensure these protections remain intact, he looks forward to joining colleagues from either side of the aisle to do whatever is necessary."

The outlier: The only Republican on that list who said he opposed the Justice Department's position was Colorado Rep. Mike Coffman. His spokesman Tyler Sandberg told Axios "he's opposed to any attempt to get rid of pre-existing condition protections" and pointed out that he voted against the Republican Obamacare repeal bill due to the addition of an amendment weakening pre-existing condition protections.

  • When Sandberg was asked to clarify that his opposition also included the DoJ position, he replied: "Yes."

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving.
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions.
  3. World: Expert says COVID vaccine likely won't be available in Africa until Q2 of 2021 — Europeans extend lockdowns.
  4. Economy: The winners and losers of the COVID holiday season.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
3 hours ago - Health

Standardized testing becomes another pandemic victim

Photo: Edmund D. Fountain for The Washington Post via Getty

National standardized reading and math tests have been pushed from next year to 2022, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) announced Wednesday.

Why it matters: There’s mounting national evidence that students are suffering major setbacks this year, with a surge in the number of failing grades.

4 hours ago - World

European countries extend lockdowns

A medical worker takes a COVID-19 throat swab sample at the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport. Photo by Maja Hitij via Getty

Recent spikes in COVID-19 infections across Europe have led authorities to extend restrictions ahead of the holiday season.

Why it matters: "Relaxing too fast and too much is a risk for a third wave after Christmas," said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.