We've seen some big news break late on a Friday night, but this one was a doozy.
A federal judge in Texas struck down the Affordable Care Act on Friday night, ruling that former President Barack Obama's signature domestic legislation has fallen down like a losing game of "Jenga." [...]
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth sided with the argument put forward by a coalition of Republican-leaning states, led by Texas, that Obamacare could no longer stand now that there's no penalty for Americans who don't buy insurance.
There's a lot to unpack, so perhaps it's best to unpack the developments with a Q&A.
Didn't the Supreme Court already rule in favor of the Affordable Care Act's constitutionality? Twice?
Yes, but the Republican tax breaks, approved last year, changed the policy landscape a bit. As we discussed over the summer, when GOP officials approved their regressive tax plan, they simultaneously zeroed out the health care law's individual mandate penalty. And that, in turn, gave several far-right attorneys general an idea: they could once again file suit against "Obamacare," arguing that the penalty-free mandate is unconstitutional, and given the mandate's importance to the system, the entire law should be torn down.
Did last night's ruling come as a surprise?
That's a matter of perspective. Most objective legal experts considered the litigation idiotic, but the Republicans behind the lawsuit took their case to the most conservative court they could find in Texas, expecting to find a partisan judge who would rule their way. Evidently, that worked.
But Donald Trump said the judge in this case is "highly respected."
Well, Donald Trump says a lot of things. U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, is known as a fierce ideologue who has "previously blocked Obama-era efforts to extend medical leave protections to same-sex couples and to include gender-identity discrimination as a form of sex discrimination under the health law."
I've heard for months that this case was about Republicans trying to get rid of protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions, but the ruling seems far more sweeping.