The federal judge in Texas who struck down the Affordable Care Act earlier this month certified his ruling on Sunday, paving the way for an appeal. He wrote that the law should remain in place as the case wends its way through the courts.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor's decision keeps Obamacare as the law of the land, as urged by Democratic state attorneys general defending the law, Republicans challenging it and the Trump administration which refused to defend it.
O'Connor said "everyday Americans would otherwise face great uncertainty" if he didn't allow the ACA to stand during the appeals process.
The case will head next to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
In the order he issued on Sunday, O'Connor expressed confidence that the appellate bench will concur with his decision that the individual mandate can't be separated from the rest of the law.
"If the judicial power encompasses ignoring unambiguous enacted text—the text citizens read to know what their representatives have done—to approximate what a judge believes Congress meant to do, but did not, then policymaking lies in the hands of unelected judges and Congress may transfer politically unwinnable issues to the bench," O'Connor said. "This the Constitution does not allow. This the Supreme Court does not allow."
O'Connor's Dec. 14 ruling was only a partial decision on whether the individual mandate violated the Constitution, which meant Democrats could not appeal quickly. But California's Democratic Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the coalition defending the ACA, asked the judge to clarify the status of the ACA and either grant a stay so the law can still be enforced by the federal government and the states, or to finalize the decision so they could appeal.
The GOP-led plaintiff states and the Trump administration each agreed separately that nothing would immediately change in the law's operations following the partial judgment, and that O'Connor should certify his decision and issue a stay.