A federal judge in Texas on Friday struck down the Affordable Care Act, throwing a new round of uncertainty into the fate of the law just one day before the deadline to sign up for coverage for next year.
U.S. District Court Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that the law's individual mandate is unconstitutional, and that because the mandate cannot be separated from the rest of the law, the rest of the law is also invalid.
The ruling is certain to be appealed, and legal experts in both parties have said they ultimately expect the challenge to the health law will not succeed. ObamaCare will remain in effect while the case is appealed.
President Trump took to Twitter on Friday night to tout the judge's ruling while calling on congressional leaders to work on a new law, despite the chances of Congress passing a replacement law that both parties can agree being essentially zero.
"Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!" Trump tweeted, referring to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and expected incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
O'Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, acknowledged in his ruling that health care is a "politically charged affair — inflaming emotions and testing civility."
But he added courts "are not tasked with, nor are they suited to, policymaking." Instead, he said they must determine what the Constitution requires. In this, case O'Connor said the Constitution does not allow the mandate to stand.
The reasoning of the ruling states that in 2012, the Supreme Court upheld the mandate to have coverage because of Congress's power to tax. But, last year, Congress removed the fine for failing to comply with the mandate, which, he argues, means the mandate is no longer a tax and therefore is unconstitutional.
In a controversial move, the judge added that because the mandate is "essential" to the rest of the law, without the mandate, the entire law is invalid.
Legal experts in both parties have denounced that argument, saying it is obvious that Congress wanted the rest of the Affordable Care Act to remain when it repealed only the mandate penalty last year.
Democrats accused the judge of waiting until after the election to issue the ruling, saying he knew striking down the law before the election would harm Republicans.
The court case, brought by 20 GOP-led states, was at the center of this year's campaign after Democrats attacked Republicans for supporting the lawsuit and seeking to overturn ObamaCare's protections for pre-existing conditions.
The Trump administration, in a rare move, declined to defend the law in court and instead argued the pre-existing condition protections should be overturned.
Nicholas Bagley, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote on Twitter Friday night that he thinks the ruling does not prevent the Affordable Care Act from remaining in effect while the appeals process plays out, because there is no injunction from the court.
"Everyone should remain calm," he wrote.
— Updated: 9:38 p.m.
"Attorney General Ken Paxton today commended a U.S. District Court decision ordering the Internal Revenue Service to repay Texas and five other states more than $839 million because of an unlawful Obamacare tax on state Medicaid programs. Of that total amount, Texas stands to be repaid $304,730,608.
“Obamacare is unconstitutional, plain and simple,” Attorney General Paxton said. “We all know that the feds cannot tax the states, and we’re proud to return this illegally collected money to the people of Texas.”
In October 2015, Attorney General Paxton led a multistate lawsuit against the federal government over the Obama-era regulation that threatened to choke off Medicaid funds for the health needs of millions of Texas citizens unless Texas taxpayers paid a portion of the Health Insurance Providers Fee to help fund Obamacare.
The court’s decision also means that five other states stand to be repaid Obamacare fees by the IRS: Indiana ($94,801,483), Kansas ($142,121,776), Louisiana ($172,493,095), Wisconsin ($88,938,850) and Nebraska ($36,238,918).
Texas and Wisconsin will argue at a hearing on September 5 that Obamacare, as amended by the recent tax bill, is unconstitutional in its entirety.
View a copy of the ruling here: https://bit.ly/2Bz1U6Z