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(CNN) —  

The Democratic-controlled House of Representatives will be allowed to intervene in an ongoing lawsuit that threatens to bring down the Affordable Care Act, a federal judge ruled Thursday.

The move allows the House to join in the lawsuit that’s pitting Democratic- and Republican-controlled states against each other over the future of Obamacare.

A federal judge in Texas ruled in December that the ACA is unconstitutional because Congress had 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 judge said.

The Trump administration is not defending Obamacare, so a coalition of Democratic states is appealing the judge’s ruling. The House can now join that suit and is likely to file a brief with the court next month.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, released a statement later Thursday that said in part:

“While the Trump administration has cruelly sought to strike down the law, the Court correctly granted the House of Representatives’ motion to be heard in defense of people with pre-existing conditions and all Americans’ health care. The Affordable Care Act and all its life-saving protections are the law of the land, and the House will defend this law while the Trump Administration abdicates its duty to do so.”

Democrats’ support for the Affordable Care Act, including its popular provisions that protect those with less-than-perfect health histories, helped them retake control of 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.

Donald Verrilli, who defended the law as President Barack Obama’s solicitor general and is now in private practice, is among the lawyers representing the House.