A Texas judge on Friday declared Obamacare to be unconstitutional, putting coverage for up to 20 million people in jeopardy. Now the judge is under attack for what opponents believe is a deliberate partisan attack against Barack Obama’s landmark accomplishment.
Judge Reed O’Connor issued a ruling on Friday saying that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional and that it must be scrapped because Congress eliminated the penalty for people who fail to obtain insurance coverage. As Politico noted, the decision was slammed for its timing — issued just 24 hours before Obamacare enrollment was set to end — and also called partisan and “reckless.”
The ruling also drew criticism for Judge Reed O’Connor himself. New York Times columnist Christian Farias wrote that Texas and other red states “shop these lawsuits” into O’Connor’s courtroom knowing that he has a long history of partisan rulings that go against Barack Obama.
Farias also noted that Obamacare has continued to come under attack from Republicans, who were pushing the court challenge that would strike it down and eliminate protection for people with pre-existing conditions even as many made public pledges to protect pre-existing conditions on the 2018 midterm election trail.
“Another thing that isn’t a mystery? The genesis of this latest attack on Obamacare. Disenchanted that a Republican-controlled federal government wouldn’t repeal every word of the law, Texas and a coalition of states tried a sleight of hand: They leaned on President Trump’s 2017 tax bill, known officially as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act — which zeroed out the tax penalty of the health care law’s individual mandate — and argued that the mandate itself was unconstitutional.”
Some have already vowed to fight the ruling. Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, said he had plans to immediately appeal. Becerra was part of a multi-state effort to defend ACA against the lawsuit. Other attorneys general also announced in the wake of the ruling that the planned to fight it, taking it back to the Supreme Court if necessary.
At some point we need to talk about the effect one single conservative pet judge has had on such a broad range of federal policies.— Katelyn Burns (@transscribe) December 15, 2018
Reed O’Connor has a left a long wake of important decisions in his wake. https://t.co/xgkWmB18zj
Judge Reed O'Connor, who just struck down Obamacare, is an former GOP Senate aide and has a long history of handing down poorly reasoned opinions advancing GOP policy goals.— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) December 15, 2018
He should not be a judge and should not be taken seriously,https://t.co/BnhtAJ2lEg
The decision did earn praise from Donald Trump, who took to Twitter to celebrate Judge O’Connor’s ruling.
“Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Great news for America!”
Judge Reed O’Connor’s Obamacare ruling may risk coverage for 20 million people, but it is not expected to go into effect immediately — if it does at all. Legal experts told Politico said there is little chance it will actually get rid of the law and could likely go back to the Supreme Court, which has already ruled that Obamacare is constitutional.