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A sign directing people to an insurance company where they can sign up for the Affordable Care Act. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Affordable Care Act, President Obama's signature achievement, may be headed back to the Supreme Court after a conservative federal judge in Texas struck down the individual mandate as unconstitutional last evening.

Be smart: This really could end with the Affordable Care Act being wiped out. There’s no guarantee that a more conservative Supreme Court won’t just let the law die.

A White House statement said: "We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place."

  • "The ruling was over a lawsuit filed this year by a group of Republican governors and state attorneys general," per the N.Y. Times.
  • U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor in Fort Worth, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote that the individual mandate requiring people to have health insurance "can no longer be sustained as an exercise of Congress’s tax power."

The big picture: This was an amazingly broad ruling. The judge didn't just strike down everything that's related to the individual mandate. He struck down everything, period.

  • That includes the parts that everyone likes, like the expansion of Medicaid, young adults staying on their parents' plans — and, of course, coverage of pre-existing conditions.
  • Nothing happens right away. The ruling will be appealed, there's no injunction to shut down the law right now, and the Trump administration is making it clear the law stays in place for now.

Why it matters: You should take this ruling seriously. It's getting a lot of criticism from legal experts, including ACA critics, and it could be overturned — but it won't definitely be overturned. This really could end with the ACA being wiped out.

  • The ACA has already survived two near-death experiences with the Supreme Court — over the mandate in 2012 and subsidies in 2015.
  • But that was before the Kavanaugh Court. If this ruling gets that far, the justices could say the ruling went too far and overturn it.
  • But there’s no guarantee that a more conservative court won’t just let the law die.

Political fallout: This could be a nightmare for Republicans in suburbs and swing states.

  • The midterms proved that the ACA has gotten more popular since the GOP started trying to repeal it — especially the protections for pre-existing conditions.
  • If the law goes away, that goes with it. This is not the fight Republicans want to have. 

Go deeper

Updated 14 mins ago - World

Pentagon: 8,500 troops on high alert for possible deployment to eastern Europe

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on "heightened preparedness to deploy" to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, the Pentagon announced Monday.

Why it matters: No decisions have been made to actually deploy U.S. forces, but the heightened alert level will allow the military to rapidly shore up NATO's eastern flank in the event that Russia invades Ukraine. The Pentagon warned that Russia has shown "no signs of de-escalating," and continues to amass troops on Ukraine's borders.

Updated 40 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden calls Fox News reporter a "stupid son of a b---h" on hot mic

President Biden blasted Fox News' Peter Doocy on Monday after the reporter asked if the nation's soaring inflation is a political liability, saying, "what a stupid son of a b----h."

The latest: The president called Doocy Monday evening, the reporter told Fox's Sean Hannity. "He cleared the air and I appreciated it. We had a nice call," Doocy said when asked whether the president apologized, adding: "I don't need anyone to apologize to me."

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive for COVID, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker