The battle over Obamacare has advanced to the next round.
A coalition of 17 Democratic state attorneys general is appealing a Texas district judge's ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals.
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"Our goal is simple: to stand up for the law of the land -- the Affordable Care Act -- in order to keep health care affordable and accessible for millions of Americans," California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the group, said Thursday. "This shouldn't be a debate."
The move comes a day after House Democrats signaled they intend to grant themselves authorization to intervene in the lawsuit as part of their rules package. A vote on the largely symbolic effort is expected soon.
Meanwhile, Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone of New Jersey announced Thursday that he will hold a hearing later this month on the impact of District Judge Reed O'Connor's ruling.
It will likely be many months before the appeals court issues a decision, and however it rules, the case is expected to end up in the Supreme Court.
O'Connor ruled last month that the sweeping health care law must fall because Congress had eliminated the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to $0 starting this year. This rendered the mandate itself unconstitutional and the rest of the act therefore cannot stand, O'Connor said. However, Obamacare remains in effect pending appeal, the judge clarified earlier this week.
The Democratic states have stepped up to defend the law because the Trump administration has declined to do so. They argue that the penalty was zeroed out, not eliminated, and that the mandate remains constitutional. In any event, they say, the rest of the law can stand without the mandate.
Also, the blue state officials stress that killing Obamacare would harm millions of Americans, including those with pre-existing conditions.
Becerra told reporters he hopes that more states will join the group now that four additional states have elected Democratic attorneys general.