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House Democrats file court motion to defend Obamacare

(CNN) In their first hours in control of the House of Representatives, Democrats filed a motion to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit that threatens to bring down the Affordable Care Act.

The petition is signed by new House counsel Douglas Letter who wrote, "The House seeks to offer a defense addressing the same questions of law that the present parties are litigating."

Notably, Donald Verrilli, who defended the law as former President Barack Obama's solicitor general and is now in private practice, is also on the brief representing the House.

A federal judge in Texas last month ruled that the ACA is unconstitutional because Congress eliminated the individual mandate penalty by reducing it to $0, starting this year. This rendered the mandate itself unconstitutional and the rest of the law therefore cannot stand.

The Trump administration is not defending Obamacare, so a coalition of Democratic states is appealing the judge's ruling.

The filing was expected as party's leaders have repeatedly said they would swiftly work to uphold the health care law.

As part of its rules package for the 116th Congress, the Democrats granted themselves authorization to intervene in the lawsuit that threatens to bring down the landmark health care law. It directed the House's Office of General Counsel to represent lawmakers in any litigation involving the act and authorizes hiring of outside counsel.

The House late Thursday voted in the rules package, which the majority party -- now the Democrats -- adopts at the start of a new Congress.

The newly empowered Democratic leadership also scheduled a vote for next Wednesday on a standalone resolution affirming the House's authorization to intervene in the lawsuit. This would put Republicans on the record voting specifically for or against defending Obamacare and its protections for those with pre-existing conditions.

Supporting the Affordable Care Act, including its popular provisions that protect those with less-than-perfect health histories, helped Democrats retake the House in the midterm elections in November. Since then, the party's leaders have repeatedly said they will swiftly work to uphold the law.

The move to intervene, however, is largely symbolic. Some Affordable Care Act supporters say that Democratic lawmakers would be better off passing legislation to address the lawsuit.