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US top court unlikely to delay health care ruling

“Here, they did not use that word tax,” liberal Justice Stephen Breyer said, referring both to lawmakers who crafted the legislation in Congress and to their intent.

Another liberal Democratic appointee to the high court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also expressed skepticism. “This is not a revenue-raising measure because, if it's successful, nobody will pay the penalty and there will be no revenue to raise.”

Conservative Antonin Scalia was also among those justices who suggested by his questions that allowing the case to go forward would not broadly undercut federal tax policy.

'No parade of horribles'

“There will be no parade of horribles,” Scalia said, noting that lower court judges would be able to determine when to make exceptions to the usual rules governing general tax penalties and law.

Chief Justice John Roberts, the leader of the conservative majority, observed that the court's past cases cut in both directions and that it was unclear that the case could not go forward.

The law, intended to transform health care for millions of people in the United States, has generated fierce political debate. Republican opponents of the law say it will financially burden states, businesses and individuals.

The law has been viewed as the crowning achievement of Obama's domestic legislative agenda, but challengers say Congress exceeded its constitutional power to regulate commerce with the individual mandate.

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