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ACA protests outside the Supreme Court in 2012. Photo: Brooks Kraft LLC/Corbis via Getty Images

A group of liberal states will be allowed to defend the Affordable Care Act in court after a federal judge in Texas today granted their request for a formal role in the latest constitutional challenge to the ACA.

Why it matters: The ACA's allies would much rather have a voice of their own in the lawsuit — which challenges the ACA's individual mandate — rather than leaving the pro-ACA argument entirely in the hands of the Trump administration.

The details: The latest lawsuit, filed by Texas and a group of other red states, aims to revive the legal debate over the ACA's individual mandate — which the Supreme Court upheld in 2012.

  • The Supreme Court viewed the mandate as a tax. It said Congress can use tax penalties to discourage certain behavior (in this case, being uninsured).
  • When Congress "repealed" the individual mandate earlier this year, what it actually did was drop the penalty down to $0. Technically, the requirement to purchase insurance is still on the books — there's just no penalty for defying it.
  • Texas argues that the Supreme Court upheld the penalty, not the underlying requirement, and now the underlying requirement is all that's left.

Between the lines: In asking to join the case, blue states said they "have a strong interest in protecting their existing healthcare infrastructure and the orderly operation of their healthcare systems, which would be thrown into disarray if the ACA were ruled unconstitutional."

  • If they hadn't been allowed to intervene, the job of defending the ACA would have fallen solely to the Justice Department. And Democrats feared that defense would not have been very strong.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.

5 hours ago - World

Scoop: Germany urges Congress not to sanction Putin’s pipeline

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The German government has urged members of Congress not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that doing so will "weaken" U.S. credibility and "ultimately damage transatlantic unity," according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when roughly 100,000 Russian troops are massing at its border, Ukraine views Nord Stream 2 as an existential threat to its security. The pipeline would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion.