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  • When Congress "repealed" the individual mandate earlier this year, what it actually did was drop the penalty down to $0.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

1 hour ago - Sports

Big Ten's conference-only move could spur a regionalized college sports season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Big Ten announced Thursday that it will move all fall sports to a conference-only schedule.

Why it matters: This will have a snowball effect on the rest of the country, and could force all Power 5 conferences to follow suit, resulting in a regionalized fall sports season.

The second jobs apocalypse

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

This week, United Airlines warned 36,000 U.S. employees their jobs were at risk, Walgreens cut more than 4,000 jobs, Wells Fargo announced it was preparing thousands of terminations this year, and Levi's axed 700 jobs due to falling sales.

Why it matters: We have entered round two of the jobs apocalypse. Those announcements followed similar ones from the Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Choice hotels, which all have announced thousands of job cuts, and the bankruptcies of more major U.S. companies like 24 Hour Fitness, Brooks Brothers and Chuck E. Cheese in recent days.

Big Tech marshals a right-leaning army of allies for antitrust fight

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

As tech's giants prepare to face off with antitrust enforcers this summer, they will draw support from an array of predominantly right-leaning defenders ranging from influential former government officials to well-connected think tanks.

The big picture: The Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the states have multiple investigations of monopolistic behavior underway targeting Facebook and Google, with other giants like Amazon and Apple also facing rising scrutiny. Many observers expect a lawsuit against Google to land this summer.