U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor in Fort Worth agreed with a coalition of Republican states led by Texas that he had to eviscerate the Affordable Care Act, the signature health-care overhaul by President Barack Obama, after Congress a year ago zeroed out a key provision - the tax penalty for not complying with the requirement to buy insurance.
In his ruling Friday, O'Connor agreed with Republicans that with the tax aspect of the law scheduled for elimination starting January 2019, the 2012 ruling's defense of the law is invalidated, making the entire law unconstitutional.
Republicans have opposed the 2010 law, the signature domestic policy achievement of President Donald Trump's Democratic predecessor Barack Obama, since its inception and have repeatedly tried and failed to repeal it.
The decision is nearly certain to be challenged in the US Supreme Court.
US District Judge Reed O'Connor sided with a coalition of state governments, led by Texas, that argued removing the "individual mandate" a year ago - a provision included in Trump's tax bill - invalidated the entire law. "Wow, but not surprisingly, ObamaCare was just ruled UNCONSTITUTIONAL by a highly respected judge in Texas. Great news for America!". Trump tweeted. "Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions".
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US Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said: "If this terrible ruling is upheld in the higher courts, itwill be a disaster for tens of millions of American families".
The 16 Democratic state attorneys general who intervened in the case to defend the health law immediately vowed to appeal.
However if this "awful ruling is upheld in the higher courts, it will be a disaster for tens of millions of American families", he said. While the issue mostly played to the advantage of Democrats, one of the Republican plaintiffs, Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, defeated Democratic incumbent Sen. The Affordable Care Act touched nearly every aspect of health care, from Medicare and Medicaid to generic biologic drugs, the Indian Health Service, and public health changes like calorie counts on menus.
The ruling "is an assault on 133 million Americans with pre-existing conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the A.C.A.'s consumer protections for health care, on America's faithful progress toward affordable health care for all Americans", Becerra said in a statement. "We will continue to fight these efforts to take Americans' healthcare away", he tweeted.
In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders praised the ruling. Numerous high-ranking Republican lawmakers have said they did not intend to also strike down popular provisions such as protection for people with pre-existing medical conditions when they repealed the ACA's fines for people who can afford coverage but remain uninsured.