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First Take

When you’re asking a court to interpret what the text of a law means, there are some simple, basic rules. One of them is to interpret the law in a way that make it work within the constitution, if you can. Another is that you interpret it so that it works a clearly intended, if you can discern a clear intent. So the Supreme Court’s 6-3 (not 5-4, which was interesting) decision today in King v. Burwell was simply reporting on the clear intent of the Affordable Care Act; the case was brought in the hope that four words which could (didn’t have to be) be interpreted as running counter to everything else in the large bill, could be used to disable the whole thing. When Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter” – that is the way courts ordinarily act. The decision shouldn’t have been even in question. The four-word challenge was ridiculous on its face.

Will Republicans continue to do battle with the ACA, or call it quits? A lot of Republicans thinking strategically were quietly terrified the Court might throw out the health insurance subsidies in the current case; had it done so, Republicans would have been running in 2016 in the face of ripping health insurance away from millions of Americans. That would have been . . . problematic.

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