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Incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via Getty Images

With their very first vote when the new Congress opens tomorrow, House Democrats plan to pounce on one of Republicans' biggest political vulnerabilities, the lawsuit to wipe out the Affordable Care Act.

The state of play: A congressional source tells me that a key provision tucked in House Dems' 14-page opening-day rules package, "Restoring Congress for the People," focuses on the federal judge in Texas who struck down the ACA (which remains in effect during appeals).

  • The provision authorizes the House counsel to intervene in the lawsuit on behalf of the House of Representatives, to try to protect people with pre-existing conditions, a popular and consequential feature of the ACA.
  • Next week, Democrats will hold an additional vote on a stand-alone resolution on intervening to defend protections for people with pre-existing conditions.

Why it matters: House Dems view the health care issue as a key reason they won the majority in November's midterms.

  • The vote shows that House Democrats will aggressively leverage advantages of the majority, even with the government shut down, and without needing the Senate to agree or President Trump to sign anything.

Be smart: Axios' Caitlin Owens points out that while this is good politics, voting to intervene in the lawsuit probably won't have any practical effect.

  • And Axios' David Nather says it's no accident that Democrats are putting the spotlight on pre-existing conditions rather than the whole health care law, which has had its ups and downs with the public.
  • Protection for pre-existing conditions is part of the health care law that has always been popular. Republicans know it — and so does Trump.
  • This is also key to protecting incoming Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s legacy: She had a bigger role in passing the law than many people realize, and insisted on pushing forward in 2010 when other Democrats wanted to scale back the plan.

Henry Connelly, a Pelosi spokesman, said: "After two years of brutal attacks on health care and desperate GOP misrepresentations on the campaign trail, we’re not giving Republicans anywhere to hide."

  • "Republicans who survived the election on their tardy promises to protect pre-existing conditions will have to explain why they have once again been complicit in trying to strike down those life-saving protections."

Go deeper: How Democrats will use their majority to bolster health care

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Go deeper

Americans are super-sizing their holiday travel

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Americans are rushing back into holiday travel, and many are taking even longer trips now than they did before the pandemic began.

The big picture: After skipping Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings last year, many people are eager to maximize this year's celebrations with friends and family. And flexible remote working arrangements make that easier than ever.

Updated 16 hours ago - Sports

The potential GOAT of chess faces intriguing challenger

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The World Chess Championship between Norway's Magnus Carlsen and Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi began on Friday, 1,094 days after Carlsen won his fourth consecutive title.

Why it matters: During the long, COVID-fueled layoff, chess entered a new era, and with the championship finally here, the age-old game is ready for its close-up.

Department of Interior proposes raising cost of drilling on public lands

A horizontal drilling rig and a pump jack sit on federal land in Lea County, New Mexico. Photo: Callaghan O'Hare/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil and gas companies should pay more to drill on federal lands and waters, the Department of the Interior argued in a report released Friday, saying that the current rates were "outdated."

Driving the news: The Department of Interior report said that the federal government's oil and gas leasing and permitting program "fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers."

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