Not the Christmas gift the Democrats had hoped for
The big story is that a Texas federal judge killed the Affordable Health Care Act. The decision will be challenged, and we will wait for that ruling sometime later.
In my non-legal opinion, Judge Reed O'Connor is on solid ground. He is saying not that the law is bad, but rather that it is unconstitutional. I like what Professor Jacobsen wrote:
With the removal of the mandate penalty, the mandate no longer was a function of Congress' taxing power, which was the basis upon which John Roberts and the liberal Justices on the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the mandate in 2012.
The Court conservative[s] and Roberts had ruled the mandate violated the Commerce Clause, but Roberts broke with the conservatives on the tax power issue.
So on what basis will it be appealed? Are Democrats going to return the mandate so we can call it a tax again? Or are they going to argue that the GOP majority did not have the authority to kill the mandate?
Again, we will wait for the appeal.
Beyond legal issues, this decision is a terrible mess for Democrats. I wonder how many now regret not having negotiated a solution with President Trump or the GOP majority leaving town.
For sure, saying no to President Trump and the GOP turned out to be good politics. It probably worked to win all of those close House elections in competitive districts. However, all of those new Democrats will now have to sit down and explain to their constituents how they will pay for health care. In other words, these Democrats now have to pass a budget rather than speak of health care in the abstract.
The judge's decision will deeply divide the House Democrats.
On one hand, they will hear that this is a great opportunity to go "Medicare for All," as Ezra Klein is saying. The left wing will be emboldened to go for it.
On the other hand, the new centrists will remind the leadership that they ran on a platform of health care generalities but not socialized medicine or anything that called for a tax increase.
So get ready for the big House Democrat explosion.
Judge O'Connor's decision will force Democrats to tell voters what they stand for. It won't be pretty when they do, especially the part about paying for it.