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Illustration: Axios Visuals

A federal judge declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional Friday, ruling that the entire law must be struck down because Congress invalidated the tax penalty for not buying health insurance — the basis for the Supreme Court's 2012 ruling that declared the law constitutional.

Why it matters: The long-awaited ruling by the Texas judge isn't the last word on the issue. A spokeswoman for California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says the state is already planning an appeal, per Bloomberg. But it leaves the entire future of Barack Obama's health care law uncertain — and is sure to put President Trump and congressional Republicans on the defensive, as it would mean the end of protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

"The Court finds the Individual Mandate ‘is essential to’ and inseverable from ‘the other provisions of’ the ACA."
— U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor
"As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions. Mitch and Nancy, get it done!"
— President Trump on Twitter Friday night
"When House Democrats take the gavel, the House of Representatives will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans’ effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.”
— Speaker-designate Nancy Pelosi

The backstory:

  • The ruling was issued in a lawsuit by a coalition of Republican-led states led by Texas.
  • O'Connor had already signaled in a September hearing that he was open to the red states' arguments.
  • The ruling comes one day before the last day of open enrollment for ACA coverage for 2019.
  • In an interview with "Axios on HBO," President Trump said he'd reinstate protections for pre-existing conditions if the lawsuit gutted the ACA. But as Axios' Sam Baker notes, Republicans have never come up with a replacement plan that would offer the same level of protection as the ACA.
  • Timothy Jost, a legal expert and supporter of the ACA, told Axios' Caitlin Owens that the ruling shouldn't have any effect until Jan. 1, since the tax penalty is still in effect until then. Beyond that, he says, it depends on how the Trump administration reacts and whether a higher court stays the ruling.

Read the ruling:

Go deeper:

There's a new lawsuit over the ACA's individual mandate

Texas lawsuit throws the ACA's future into uncertainty

Exclusive poll: Public fears lawsuit over pre-existing conditions

This story has been updated with more details and reactions from President Trump and Nancy Pelosi.

Go deeper

Democrats fail to change Senate rules to pass voting rights bill

Senate Majority Leader during a news conference in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Democrats failed Wednesday night to change Senate filibuster rules to pass the voting rights bill, with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) voting with Republicans.

The big picture: The failed effort came after Senate Republicans blocked the voting rights measure from coming to a final vote earlier Wednesday.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court rejects Trump's attempt to shield documents from Jan. 6 committee

Photo: Melissa Sue Gerrits/Getty Images

The Supreme Court rejected on Wednesday night a bid by former President Trump to block the release of documents and records from his administration to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

Why it matters: Trump asked the Supreme Court to step in and block the release of the documents last month after a panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit unanimously denied his attempt to prevent the committee from obtaining the materials.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Biden says Russia likely to invade Ukraine

President Biden addressed the brewing conflict between Russia and Ukraine during a press briefing Wednesday, saying of Russian President Vladimir Putin, "my guess is he will move in."

Why it matters: U.S. officials have issued a series of warnings about Russia's threatening military buildup on the border with Ukraine, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken saying in Kyiv earlier Wednesday that Russia could invade "on very short notice."