WASHINGTON — It’s difficult to think of when so much has ever ridden on the interpretation of just six words. But that’s how things stand in the twisted, tortured legal challenge to the Affordable Care Act now before the Supreme Court.
On Wednesday, the court will hear oral arguments on the legality of the individual tax credits awarded under the law. Critics of Obamacare argue that the language of the legislation restricts those subsidies to people who purchase coverage on state-run exchanges. Defenders of Obamacare think that is bunk. Only a ridiculously narrow reading of the law would lead to such a conclusion, they insist.
With millions of people at risk of losing subsidies in about two-thirds of states, an enormous focus has been placed on one critical passage in the Affordable Care Act. Lawyers have pored over it. Lawmakers have fought bitterly about it. Reporters have devoted countless words, and judges have considered pages and pages of briefs. Just what exactly are the meaning and intention of the bold phrase in this passage, which is defining the size of the subsidy:
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