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If the Republican-backed challenge to the law's subsidies for lower-earning Americans prevails, the GOP would have achieved a paramount goal of severely damaging "Obamacare." But Republican lawmakers would be pressured to help the millions of Americans who could suddenly find government-mandated medical coverage unaffordable — and they'd face blame from many voters if they failed to provide assistance.
"If you win the case you actually have people who lost their insurance. You now share the responsibility for fixing it," said former Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., who once led the House GOP campaign committee. "And you've got a lot of pissed off people. That hurts you."
Should the Obama administration win, relieved Democrats would crow that Obama's foremost domestic achievement had stood unscathed. But some say they'd have lost a potentially powerful cudgel for the 2016 campaigns: Being able to accuse Republicans of ending the assistance and disrupting health coverage for many.
If Democrats lose in court, "It completely reverses the issue and puts us back on offense on health care," said Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., one of his party's chief message crafters.
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