It may have lost an election, but don’t expect the Republican Party to give up its eight-year war on Obamacare.

That was the message Friday from a federal judge in Texas, who declared that the entire 2,000-page law had been rendered unconstitutional by the Republican tax cut of 2017.

In addition to borrowing $1.5 trillion to distribute to wealthy families, corporations and their stockholders, the Republican-controlled Congress also stripped away the Affordable Care Act’s penalty for people who don’t buy insurance.

U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor found that the individual insurance mandate was unconstitutional without the tax. And since the whole law is a series of demands balanced by benefits, he determined that it can’t survive without such an essential piece.

REVERSAL LIKELY

Republican Sen. Susan Collins says she is confident that a higher court will soon overturn the decision, which she called overly broad. Legal scholars say she is probably right. But if you have asthma, diabetes, cancer or any number of other conditions that will very likely require health care expenses in the foreseeable future, you might not be so confident.

The fate of the law that says that people with so-called pre-existing conditions cannot be denied coverage has been insecure since Republicans took control of the government. After multiple attempts to repeal the ACA, Republican candidates took a beating in the 2018 midterm elections. This was especially true in the House, where Democrats gained 40 seats, including the one held by two-term incumbent Rep. Bruce Poliquin in Maine’s 2nd District.

But the Texas ruling shows that the war on Obamacare is far from over. It came in response to a lawsuit filed by Republican state officials (including Maine Gov. Paul LePage) with tacit support from the Trump administration, which announced last spring that it would not defend the health care law.

Even if Collins is right and a higher court overturns the ruling, there is no telling where the next assault will come from.

GOOD POLITICS

Attacking Obamacare has been good politics for the Republicans. The law’s initial unpopularity was credited with fueling the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014 and the presidency in 2016. But as soon as the ACA was in jeopardy, it became more popular, and Republicans are starting to pay a political price for their hostility.

It has been clear for nearly two years that the party does not have a plan to repeal Obamacare and replace it with something else. Attacking the imperfect, not-quite-universal health care program doesn’t do anything to address the very real problems that Americans face, paying some of the highest prices in the world for health care for less-than-optimal results.

Republicans had the power to introduce their own approach but failed to do so. Now facing a period of divided government, they should stop trying to undermine an imperfect program, and instead work with Democrats to expand coverage and lower costs.