Even conservatives are shocked at how wrong the latest anti-Obamacare ruling is

Except Donald Trump, who predictably pretended the partisan district judge was "highly respected."

A 2017 protest in New York City against repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
A 2017 protest in New York City against repeal of the Affordable Care Act. CREDIT: Albin Lohr-Jones/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images

Late Friday, a federal judge specifically chosen by Republicans to decimate the Affordable Care Act (commonly known as Obamacare) did what he often does: he struck down a policy enacted by elected Democrats using spurious legal reasoning.

But while the tortured argument by United States District Judge Reed O’Connor that the whole of Obamacare is now unconstitutional since congressional Republicans removed its individual mandate penalty garnered praise from Donald Trump, more thoughtful conservatives called the ruling out for what it was.

With only one active federal district judge in the district, the highly partisan O’Connor, the plaintiffs carefully selected Fort Worth, Texas, as the venue for their challenge. As expected, the George W. Bush appointee agreed with their argument and issued a sweeping decision wiping out health protections for millions of Americans.


Ted Frank is director of litigation and senior attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, the fossil fuel industry-backed conservative organization behind the last major unsuccessful challenge to Obamcare, King v. Burwell. On Friday, he reiterated his opposition to the law, but called this ruling an “embarrassingly bad decision.”

Writing for the libertarian Volokh Conspiracy at Reason, Jonathan H. Adler wrote that O’Connor’s decision comes to a “surprising result, and one that is hard to justify,” observing:

I’ve been highly skeptical of the claims in this case from the beginning. Thus the result in the opinion is surprising — and surprisingly weak. It is, in many respects, the conservative equivalent of so-called #Resistance judicial opinions that have embraced questionable legal arguments deployed to subvert objectionable Trump Administration policies. I would be quite surprised if this opinion survives the inevitable appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and even more surprised if this result garners the support of more than two justices on the Supreme Court (if the case even gets that far).

Peter Suderman, an editor at Reason, called the case “weak” and predicted it will be overturned.

Christopher Jacbos, a contributor for The Federalist whose bio notes that he was a policy adviser for the House Republican Conference under then-Chairman Mike Pence during the Obamacare debate, also expressed his distaste for both Obamacare and the ruling. Noting that Congress opted to repeal only the individual mandate penalty, he argued that “the courts should have deferred to that,” and mocked O’Connor for relying on “A DISSENT in [the first unsuccessful Obamacare challenge] for Pete’s sake.”

Even far-right blogger Erick Erickson agreed with the ruling, but noted the absurdity that one federal district’s judge in Texas can throw an entire federal law into chaos.

Unsurprisingly, Donald Trump tweeted out self-congratulations, making the odd claim that he had “predicted all along” that a bill passed only last year would cause a rogue judge to destroy legislation that he repeatedly failed to “repeal and replace” as promised.

O’Connor’s ruling did not contain an injunction, meaning the Affordable Care Act is still in operation at the moment. An appeal is imminent.