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

Commission rejects Trump campaign request for 4th debate

President Trump in Cleveland, Ohio on August 6. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Commission on Presidential Debates on Thursday denied the Trump campaign's request to add a fourth debate in the first week of September or move up one of the existing debates in order to get ahead of an expected surge in early voting.

The bottom line: Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden are set to debate on Sept. 29 in Cleveland, Oct. 15 in Miami, and Oct. 22 in Nashville. "If the candidates were to agree that they wished to add to that schedule, the Commission would consider that request," the organization wrote in a statement.

Updated 20 mins ago - World

Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Media tycoon Jimmy Lai at the Next Digital offices in Hong Kong in June. Photo: Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong pro-democracy activist Jimmy Lai has been arrested for "collusion with foreign powers" and the offices of his newspaper raided, said Mark Simon, an executive at the tycoon's media firm Next Digital on Monday.

Why it matters: He was arrested under the new national security law that gives Beijing more powers over the former British colony. Lai is the most prominent person arrested under the law — which prompted the U.S. to sanction Chinese officials, including Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, over Beijing's efforts to strip the territory of its autonomy.

Updated 30 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 a.m. ET: 19,861,683 — Total deaths: 731,326 — Total recoveries — 12,115,825Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1:30 a.m. ET: 5,044,864 — Total deaths: 162,938 — Total recoveries: 1,656,864 — Total tests: 61,792,571Map.
  3. Politics: Pelosi says states don't have the funds to comply with Trump's executive order on unemployment — Mnuchin says Trump executive orders were cleared by Justice Department.
  4. States: New York reports lowest rate of positive coronavirus test results since pandemic began
  5. Public health: Ex-FDA head: U.S. will "definitely" see 200,000 to 300,000 virus deaths by end of 2020. 
  6. Schools: 97,000 children test positive for coronavirus in two weeks — Nine test positive at Georgia school where photo showing packed hallway went viral .