People hold a rally to protest the Republican health care bill on March 11, 2017, in New York City. (Erik Mcgregor/Pacific Press/Zuma Press/TNS)

House Democrats plan to join Obamacare legal fight, source says

WASHINGTON — House Democrats plan a quick vote next year authorizing the chamber to get involved in the legal battle over Obamacare after a federal judge in Texas ruled the law unconstitutional, a person familiar with the plans said.

Democrats didn’t specify on Monday the exact timing of the vote that will be held after they take control of the chamber on Jan. 3.

Once the House floor vote is taken — and the effort to proceed with legal action is approved — the next step would be for the new speaker to designate the House general counsel to either file papers or hire outside counsel to do so.

The Friday ruling in which U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor said the entire law was invalid came in a lawsuit initiated by 20 Republican state attorneys general. It revived an explosive political issue that could make health care a defining issue of the 2020 race for the White House and Congress.

President Donald Trump backed the suit and praised the judge’s decision. But Democrats immediately seized on it to link the GOP to threatening health care coverage for millions of Americans.

In the 2018 election, polls showed health care ranked as the single most important issue to voters. Democrats across the country highlighted the GOP’s attempts to do away with Obamacare’s consumer protections, and it paid dividends as the party won 40 House seats.

It wouldn’t be the first time the House has gotten formally involved in a lawsuit or other legal action involving Obamacare. Republicans previously used their majority control to make legal attacks on aspects of the 2010 health care law. In July 2014, the House led by then-Speaker John Boehner voted 225-201 to authorize a lawsuit against President Barack Obama’s White House to block the administration from diverting funds to pay insurers to help cover low-income Americans.

The next stop in the court case is the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, the most conservative appellate court in the country. If the decision is upheld here it’s likely headed to the Supreme Court; if it’s reversed, some legal experts expect the Supreme Court to turn down the case. However that might not come until 2020 at the earliest.

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