Michigan Democratic representative Brenda Lawrence hammered Attorney General Bill Barr for going along with President Donald Trump’s renewed push to repeal the Affordable Care Act, chastising him for interrupting her and demanding he state whether he serves the president or the American people.
“I watched in deliberate intent of your answers ‘who do you report to, the president of the United States or to the people of America?,'” began Lawrence, recalling Barr’s confirmation hearing. “Without duress, [you] said you report to the people, but you just said when it came to the ACA ruling that you gave, that the president was very clear that he opposed it, and so let it work out in legislation.”
Barr interrupted to contradict her, which only served to make Lawrence angry.
“Let me finish my question because that’s what I heard,” she shot back and began speaking slowly and deliberately, as if to a young child.
“I want you to explain to me, do you understand your role, when you issue a statement abolishing Affordable Care Act, that you as the attorney general of the people of the United States have a responsibility to understand and support that decision, not based on the policy of a president of the United States?” she said. “You felt it was the right decision under the law to issue that you support abolishing the Affordable Care Act? That’s your legal opinion?”
“The first obligation is to provide your best view of the law,” Barr said. But if the president disagrees with that advice “the attorney general litigating on behalf of the United States should take that position if it’s reasonable and a defensive legal position, even if it’s not the position that the attorney general would take if the attorney general was a judge.”
Lawrence was stunned.
“What you’re saying is if you disagree with the president, if your legal experience and your expertise doesn’t agree, and your president says something different, you’re obligated to agree and enforce what the president says,” she said. “Is that what you’re telling me as the attorney general of the United States of America?”
Barr tried to say that the DOJ often defended Congressional laws it didn’t agree with, but Lawrence was undeterred.
“Sir, we pass laws. The president of the united States doesn’t pass laws,” she said. “Sir, I’m very concerned at this point. I’m over my time and I’ll come back at my second one, but I’m very concerned with your statement.”
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