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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

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

  1. Health: Most vulnerable Americans aren't getting enough vaccine information — Fauci says Trump administration's lack of facts on COVID "very likely" cost lives.
  2. Education: Schools face an uphill battle to reopen during the pandemic.
  3. Vaccine: Florida requiring proof of residency to get vaccine — CDC extends interval between vaccine doses for exceptional cases.
  4. World: Hong Kong puts tens of thousands on lockdown as cases surge — Pfizer to supply 40 million vaccine doses to lower-income countries — Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca vaccine.
  5. Sports: 2021 Tokyo Olympics hang in the balance.
  6. 🎧 Podcast: Carbon Health's CEO on unsticking the vaccine bottleneck.

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has been charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."