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Photo: Andrew Harnik / AP

There were plenty of reasons to think the individual mandate was here to stay. It was a linchpin of Republicans' failed effort to defeat the Affordable Care Act in 2010. They couldn't persuade the Supreme Court to strike it down in 2012, or muster enough votes in that year's elections to do it themselves. They failed to repeal it once again in July. This July. Not even five months ago. And yet, here we are.

The bottom line: As important as the passage of Republicans' tax overhaul is for tax policy, and for President Trump's legislative agenda and Paul Ryan's legacy and everything else, this is at least as big a moment in the life of the ACA. After years upon years of dire warnings about what would happen to the ACA without an individual mandate, we're about to find out in a live experiment.

Yes, but: I asked some of the other people who have ridden out the entire individual-mandate saga whether they're as surprised as I am to see the coverage requirement actually about to vanish. They are mostly surprised Republicans haven't achieved more.

  • "I am in some ways surprised they didn't repeal the law," says former Rep. Henry Waxman, who helped write the House version of the ACA.
  • Conservative policy analyst Chris Jacobs sort of agrees with Waxman, though obviously by coming at it from the other side, noting Republicans' years of campaign promises to roll back the law's regulatory requirements.
  • "I know the [Mitt] Romney folks drafted a whole reconciliation bill in 2012," Jacobs says. "If this is all we get out of it? No."
  • "I don't think it's that big an accomplishment, because [the mandate] has always been unpopular," Jacobs says.

Go deeper

U.S. ambassador to Russia will return home briefly: State Department

John Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Russia, during a briefing in Moscow in 2015. Photo: Anton Novoderezhkin/TASS via Getty Images

The State Department said Monday that the U.S. ambassador to Russia, John Sullivan, will now be returning to the United States this week before returning to Moscow "in the coming weeks."

Why this matters: The statement, from a State Department spokesperson, comes just hours after Axios reported that Sullivan had indicated he intended to stand his ground and stay in Russia after the Kremlin “advised” him to return home to talk with his team.

Scoop: Leaked Ukraine memo reveals scope of Russia's aggression

Russian President Vladimir Putin visits a military exposition in Sevastopol, Crimea, in Jan. 2020. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

Russia has been holding last-minute military exercises near commercial shipping lanes in the Black Sea that threaten to strangle Ukraine's economy, according to an internal document from Ukraine's ministry of defense reviewed by Axios.

Why it matters: With the eyes of the world on the massive buildup of troops in eastern Ukraine, the leaked memo shows Russian forces escalating their presence on all sides of the Ukrainian border.

Elon Musk: Autopilot feature wasn't enabled in fatal Texas crash

Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Monday that "data logs recovered so far" show the car's Autopilot feature was not enabled — and it did not have access to "full self-driving mode" — in the deadly crash in Texas involving the company's electric vehicle.

Background: Local investigators said they believed the car was operating without anyone in the driver's seat. At the time of death, one man was in the passenger seat, while another was in the rear seat, KPRC 2 reports.