U.S. Sen. Susan Collins is opposing President Trump’s nominee to a federal appeals court because the nominee, as an attorney for the U.S. Justice Department, argued in court against the Affordable Care Act’s pre-existing conditions protections.

“I will oppose the nomination of Chad Readler to be a Judge on the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the Maine Republican senator said in a statement. Collins is the first in her party to publicly oppose Readler. Maine Sen. Angus King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, is also opposed to Readler’s nomination. The Sixth Circuit is based in Ohio and hears cases from Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky.

Collins was one of three to buck her party to save the ACA from repeal in July 2017, joining Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and the late John McCain of Arizona in upholding the law, which survived repeal by one vote.

President Trump is in favor of dismantling the ACA, and he has taken executive actions designed to undermine it during the first two years of his presidency. The ACA, the signature domestic policy achievement of former President Obama, covers more than 20 million Americans with subsidized individual insurance and by expanding Medicaid for lower-income Americans.

“As the Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, Mr. Readler was both a lead attorney and policy advisor in the department’s decision not to defend the Affordable Care Act, including its provisions protecting individuals with pre-existing conditions,” Collins said. “Rather than defend the law and its protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions – such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease – Mr. Readler’s brief in Texas v. United States argued that they should be invalidated.”

Collins’ vote would be her first against a Trump judicial nominee, said her spokeswoman, Annie Clark.

About 45 percent of Maine’s population – nearly 600,000 Mainers – have pre-existing health conditions.

A Texas judge ruled in favor of gutting pre-existing conditions in the December ruling, but implementation of the order was stayed because it was appealed. The case is likely to go before the U.S. Supreme Court, according to legal experts.

Collins said she urged the Justice Department last year to “reverse course and defend the law’s critical protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions” but the Trump administration did not heed her advice.

King said in a statement that Readler is one of Trump’s “unqualified or unfit judicial nominees.”

“Since he does not believe that a patient with a pre-existing condition deserves access to healthcare, I do not believe he deserves to be seated as a United States judge, and I will vote ‘no’ on his nomination,” King said.

Demand Justice, a Washington-based liberal activist group, said it has canceled plans to run ads urging Collins to vote against Readler. Brian Fallon, Demand Justice’s executive director, said Collins is taking a “free pass” by opposing a Trump judicial nominee to burnish her moderate reputation, while knowing the Republican-led Senate will likely confirm him anyway. Republicans expanded their majority in the Senate, from 51-49 last year to 53-47 in 2019.

“If Collins was the deciding vote on Readler, would she be opposing him? I think not,” Fallon said.

In October, Collins backed controversial Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, despite accusations that he committed sexual assault while in high school and opposition by abortion rights activists. Collins, who is pro-choice, argued that Kavanaugh was qualified for the position and that there was not enough corroborating evidence to prove the claims by Kavanaugh’s accuser, Christine Blasey Ford.

Clark, Collins’ spokeswoman, said the senator has supported “90 percent” of judicial nominees put forth by Democratic and Republican presidents since she began serving in 1997.

Joe Lawlor can be contacted at 791-6376 or at:

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