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A U.S. Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate is unconstitutional, but ordered a lower court to take a fresh look at how much of the rest of the law should fall along with it.

What's next: This decision will likely keep the ACA's protections for pre-existing conditions in legal limbo well past the 2020 election.

The intrigue: Republican attorneys general have argued that congressional Republicans’ 2017 tax law, which nullified the ACA's individual mandate, made that policy unconstitutional.

  • A panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday that it agrees.
  • Republicans, and the Trump administration, have said the courts should strike down the entire law along with the mandate.
  • The 5th Circuit wrestled during oral arguments over how much of the law to strike down, ultimately deciding to kick that question back to the lower court for a new hearing. That lower court previously said the entire law would have to go.

Yes, but: The individual mandate is now essentially toothless, and it turned out not to be particularly effective when it was in effect.

  • So if the court is inclined to strike down the mandate alone, letting the rest of the law stand, that would be a much safer proposition than it appeared to be in 2012.

Go deeper: Government funding bill deal will repeal key ACA taxes

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Political consultants pocket taxpayer cash

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Members of Congress are turning to the same political consultants who got them elected to blast out taxpayer-funded communications from their government offices, records show.

Why it matters: While those members are barred from politicking with official funds, the firms have expertise in boosting elected officials' images for political gain and are in high demand for both campaign and government work.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Transplants rebound from COVID lull
  2. Vaccines: WHO: No evidence that healthy children, teens need boosters — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America
  3. Politics: Government website for free COVID tests launches early
  4. World: Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older
  5. Variant tracker
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Schumer pushes for doomed filibuster changes

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer addresses reporters Tuesday. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told the Democratic caucus Tuesday night he plans to propose instituting a one-time "talking" filibuster requirement, and bypassing the 60-vote threshold for major legislation, to pass the party's election reforms package via simple majority.

Why it matters: While Schumer acknowledged both votes are expected to fail — and some vulnerable Democrats up for re-election feel it will put them in a tough spot — he argued it's worth putting members on the record for historic legislation.