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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Affordable Care Act is no longer the center of the national political debate, for the first time in nearly a decade. But it could quickly come roaring back to the fore.

What we're watching: A federal appeals court is set to rule any day now on whether the ACA's individual mandate is unconstitutional (yes, that again) — and, if so, how much of the rest of the law would have to fall along with it.

Why it matters: During oral arguments over the summer, the three-judge panel seemed likely to strike down at least some of the ACA.

  • That would put popular policies, like guaranteed coverage for pre-existing conditions, back on the chopping block and thus back at the center of the health care debate.
  • A ruling ultimately striking down the entire law — the outcome the Trump administration is arguing for — would have even bigger ramifications, upending more technical parts of the ACA.
  • The FDA would have to stop approving certain kinds of drugs, for example, and changes to Medicare, including new powers the Trump administration has relied on, would go away.

What's next: The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals could rule any time. If it upholds the health care law (which would be a surprise), there's a good chance that could be the end of all this.

  • But if that court strikes down any part of it, get ready for another big battle at the Supreme Court.

Go deeper

Voter suppression then and now

Photo illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Barry Lewis/Getty Images 

From its start, the United States gave citizens the right to vote — as long as they were white men who owned property. From counting a slave as 3/5 of a white man to the creation of the Electoral College, there's a through-line of barriers that extends to today based on racial politics.

Why it matters: 150 years after the 15th Amendment — and 55 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — people of color still face systemic obstacles to voting.

Home confinees face imminent return to prison

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Thousands of prisoners who've been in home confinement for as long as a year because of the pandemic face returning to prison when it's over — unless President Biden rescinds a last-minute Trump Justice Department memo.

Why it matters: Most prisoners were told they would not have to come back as they were released early with ankle bracelets. Now, their lives are on hold while they wait to see whether or when they may be forced back behind bars. Advocates say about 4,500 people are affected.

The "essential" committee that still doesn't exist

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Getty Images

Nearly five months after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the creation of the bipartisan Select Committee on Economic Disparity and Fairness in Growth, it's not been formed much less met.

Why it matters: Select committees are designed to address urgent matters, but the 117th Congress is now nearly one-quarter complete without this panel assembling. When she announced this committee, Pelosi described it as an "essential force" to "combat the crisis of income and wealth disparity in America."

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