A federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that one of the biggest legislative accomplishments of the Obama administration is unconstitutional because of recent changes made to tax laws.
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Because the ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the law will remain in place for now, according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders.
“We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court,” she said in a statement that also applauded the decision. “Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.”
U.S.. District Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth sided with a group of Republicans -- Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton spearheaded the lawsuit, alongside 19 states -- who sued in February to end the law, arguing that congress had eliminated a key provision in the legislation when it passed the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The tax overhaul repealed the individual mandate, which required Americans to either get health insurance or face a financial penalty.
The Supreme Court originally upheld ObamaCare on the principle that the mandate was somehow a tax. Although Congress does not have the ability to require people to buy health insurance, or a car, or a house, that particular provision was considered part of lawmakers’ taxing authority. But when Congress removed that penalty, they essentially gutted the taxation part of the law. States then argued that the entire basis for the health care act standing as constitutional is gone, meaning the entire law is unconstitutional.
"The Individual Mandate can no longer be fairly read as an exercise of Congress's Tax Power and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause — meaning the Individual Mandate is unconstitutional," O'Connor wrote in his ruling, according to Bloomberg. "The Individual Mandate is essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA."
O’Connor is a conservative Republican and has previously blocked other policies implemented under President Barack Obama.
Trump praised the decision in a series of tweets written on Friday night, calling the ruling “great news for America!” He then called on soon-to-be Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to “get it done” with new healthcare legislation in 2019.
It’s likely that the decision will fuel Democrats -- who campaigned heavily on healthcare during the 2018 midterm elections -- to move additional healthcare legislation next year, and possible that liberals will use the ruling to push “Medicaid for all.”