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  • When Congress "repealed" the individual mandate earlier this year, what it actually did was drop the penalty down to $0.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

Erica Pandey, author of @Work
56 mins ago - Economy & Business

The winners and losers of the pandemic holiday season

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The pandemic has upended Thanksgiving and the shopping season that the holiday kicks off, creating a new crop of economic winners and losers.

The big picture: Just as it has exacerbated inequality in every other facet of American life, the coronavirus pandemic is deepening inequities in the business world, with the biggest and most powerful companies rapidly outpacing the smaller players.

Coronavirus cases rose 10% in the week before Thanksgiving

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

The daily rate of new coronavirus infections rose by about 10 percent in the final week before Thanksgiving, continuing a dismal trend that may get even worse in the weeks to come.

Why it matters: Travel and large holiday celebrations are most dangerous in places where the virus is spreading widely — and right now, that includes the entire U.S.

Updated 6 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York coronavirus restrictions

Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.