Gage Skidmore / Flickr Rick Scott...
Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Federal District Court Judge Reed O’Connor just struck down the Affordable Care Act, and his timing sure is suspicious. I don’t just mean the fact that he dropped his ruling late on a Friday evening, the day before open enrollment for Obamacare health insurance plans ends. I’m talking about the fact that O’Connor waited until after the 2018 elections to issue his decision—a suspicious delay that’s had people talking for months because it looks like it was designed to protect Republican behinds.

You see, a whole bunch of GOP attorneys general launched this latest lawsuit all the way back in February, and many of them had skin in the midterms. That group included Republican officials in Florida, Georgia, and Wisconsin, all of which had hotly contested races for Senate, governor, or both—and above all Missouri, where Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley challenged Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Healthcare, of course, was the number one issue in 2018, and Democrats pounded Republicans everywhere over their burning desire to gut the Affordable Care Act. In response, all of the Republican candidates in all of these states—and across the country—naturally promised to protect those with pre-existing medical conditions, even though all of those promises were a lie because they or their allies were all supporting this lawsuit.

Had O’Connor ruled before Election Day, these Democratic attacks would have been even more potent. And he certainly should have. The Republican plaintiffs characterized their suit as a legal emergency, telling the judge in April that “the sooner an order issues enjoining the A.C.A., the better, both so that all states and individuals can prepare to operate and live without the A.C.A.”

But despite the apparent urgency, O’Connor didn’t act. Not in May. Not in June. Not in July. Not in September. Certainly not in October. And definitely not in November.

In fact, he waited until December, after the elections and every runoff had concluded, to issue this bombshell of an abomination of a ruling. Even though, again, the Republican attorneys general who brought the suit said it was of the utmost importance that a ruling be made as quickly as possible.

Of course, we can’t say for sure, but it’s certainly possible that Rick Scott would have lost his Senate bid in Florida had this decision been handed down in a timely fashion—after all, he won by just 0.1 percent of the vote. Other Republicans in close races who pretended to support protecting people with pre-existing conditions while backing this lawsuit might also have lost. Hawley in Missouri certainly would have had a hell of a lot to answer for.

But O’Connor—an appointee of George W. Bush—spared them all. So now it’s up to us to make them pay.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.

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