AUSTIN, Texas -- A lawyer for Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton will be in a federal courtroom Tuesday asking three appellate judges to declare the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, and this time it will be with the full support of the Trump administration.
The U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year announced that the agency, like Paxton, believes the entire law should be struck down, reversing its previous position that certain sections, including a provision allowing states to expand Medicaid, should not be affected by the case.
Opposing them in Tuesday's oral arguments at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will be lawyers for the U.S. House and 20 Democratic-led states who say striking down the law would wreak havoc on the health care system and put lives at risk.
The showdown will produce a decision that could give the U.S. Supreme Court another crack at deciding whether the 2010 law, a signature achievement of Democratic President Barack Obama, remains in effect.
At stake is health insurance for about 20 million Americans, either directly through the program sometimes called Obamacare or through expanded Medicaid coverage, as well as protection for millions more who have preexisting medical conditions.
It's a fight that features the nation's two largest states, Republican Texas against Democratic California, and two very different attorneys general.
Paxton, a conservative Republican who calls Obamacare an improper expansion of federal power into the health care system, gathered 17 other GOP-led states into a coalition that filed suit in February 2018 to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
"Obamacare is a failed social experiment," Paxton said. "The sooner it is invalidated, the better, so each state can decide what type of health care system it wants and how best to provide for those with preexisting conditions, which is federalism that the Founders intended."
With the act out of the way, Paxton said, President Donald Trump and Congress would have an opportunity to enact a plan "that ensures Texans and all Americans will again have greater choice about what health coverage they need and who will be their doctor."
Leading the fight to preserve the law is California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, a Democrat who believes Paxton and others are deluded if they think a gridlocked Congress -- where Republicans have tried and failed more than 70 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act -- could fill the void if Obamacare is struck down.