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Former Rep. William Jefferson may soon get date to report to prison
Apr-19-2012 620 0


A court hearing Friday could determine whether former Rep. William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, will begin serving his 13-year corruption sentence before summer. Some legal experts expect federal prosecutors to ask Judge T.S. Ellis III, who presided over Jefferson's six-week 2009 trial, to revoke Jefferson's $50,000 bail and set a date for him to begin his sentence.

Ellis also could allow Jefferson to self report by a court-imposed deadline.

After sentencing Jefferson, Ellis rejected calls by prosecutors to imprison him immediately and instead allowed him to remain free with an electronic monitor pending resolution of his appeals.

Friday's hearing was scheduled after Jefferson's lawyers failed to meet last week's deadline for filing an appeal with the full 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts said the decision indicates his lawyers will go directly to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge a unanimous ruling last month by a three-judge 4th Circuit panel rejecting Jefferson's request for a new trial.

The high court probably won't decide whether to take the case -- and they accept only a tiny percentage -- until next fall.

University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias, who has been closely following the case, said it is possible prosecutors will argue the unanimous verdict by the 4th Circuit panel makes it unlikely he'll succeed with his Supreme Court appeal.

Ellis "has been pretty strict when it comes to corruption cases," Tobias said, "and if the prosecutors move to (set a date to report to prison) the judge may well grant it."

Kevin Thomas, a consultant with the MPM Group, which helps clients with sentence-mitigation efforts, said he thinks it's likely prosecutors will prevail.

"It was unusual for him (Jefferson) to stay out after sentencing and I would be shocked if the judge let him stay out now that the appellate court has ruled," Thomas said. "But then again his attorney (Robert Trout) is formidable and he could talk a starving dog off a meat wagon."

Jefferson, 65, isn't likely to be remanded into prison immediately, though. In a filing with Judge Ellis, lead prosecutor Mark Lytle expressed no objections if Jefferson chose not to attend Friday's session at the federal courthouse in Alexandria, Va.

Neither Lytle nor Trout would comment Wednesday.

Tobias said it's no surprise Jefferson's lawyers decided not to file an appeal with the full 4th Circuit, given the unanimous ruling by the three-judge panel.

In a 64-page ruling issued March 26, the appellate judges rejected the legal arguments by Jefferson that Judge Ellis erroneously instructed the jury about what the accepted practice is for official acts by a member of Congress.

Jefferson's lawyers argued the government had dramatically expanded the definition -- taking it beyond what most consider official acts, such as casting votes, introducing bills and committee work -- to include influencing foreign officials in Western Africa on behalf of private business executives.

"The (judge's) instructions did not in any way supplant the statutory definition of what constitutes an official act; it simply explained to the jury that an official act need not be prescribed by statute, but rather may include acts that a congressman customarily performs," according to the three judges.

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Bruce Alpert Aug-27-2015 105 0
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday (August 27) that she is committed to "finishing the work of rebuilding" from the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

"As president, I will build on that work," Clinton said in a statement. "I'll partner with New Orleans and other cities and states to build more resilient infrastructure, invest in struggling communities, reduce poverty, and protect Americans from the impacts of climate change and extreme weather. Because no city should ever have to endure what New Orleans has endured -- not in the United States of America."

Clinton said the 10th year since the hurricane and failed federal levees left most of New Orleans under water is a "somber anniversary."

"By the time it passed, hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Tens of thousands were stuck in emergency shelters. Eighty percent of New Orleans was flooded. And across the region, more than 1,800 died," Clinton said.

"Today, we remember those we lost. And we recommit to finishing the work of rebuilding. We can be proud of the work that has already been done to repair and strengthen New Orleans' levees and flood protections. And the innovative work to restore Louisiana's coastal wetlands stands as a model of how to 'build back better' after a catastrophe."

As president, Clinton promised to finish that work.

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DARLENE SUPERVILLE Aug-27-2015 82 0
Walking door to door in a city reborn after tragedy, President Barack Obama says New Orleans is moving forward a decade after Hurricane Katrina. He offered the city as an example of what can happen when people rally to build a better future after suffering a devastating blow.

The president's first stop on a visit marking the storm's 10th anniversary was Treme, one of the oldest black neighborhoods in America and an area that experienced significant flooding during Katrina. A cheering crowd welcomed him to an area where homes inundated by the storm have been rebuilt.

As the president went from house to house, he chatted with residents, calling out, "How you doing?" and, "We appreciate you."

Reflecting on the improved surroundings, Obama declared, "The fact that we can make this many strides 10 years after a terrible epic disaster, I think, is an indication of the kind of spirit we have in this city."

It was an informal version of the broader message Obama planned to deliver later at a newly opened community center in the Lower 9th Ward, one of the hardest-hit areas of the city and one that is still struggling to recover.

"Not long ago, our gathering here in the Lower 9th might have seemed unlikely," Obama said in speech excerpts released in advance by the White House. "But today, this new community center stands as a symbol of the extraordinary resilience of this city and its people, of the entire Gulf Coast, indeed, of the United States of America. You are an example of what's possible when, in the face of tragedy and hardship, good people come together to lend a hand, and to build a better future."

"That, more than any other reason, is why I've come back here today," said Obama, making his ninth visit to the city. He also visited on the hurricane's fifth anniversary in 2010.

The president stopped for lunch in Treme with some local young men at Willie Mae's corner restaurant, apparently a return visit. Obama noted that on his last visit, he didn't have the fried chicken.

Obama was a new U.S. senator when Katrina's powerful winds and driving rain bore down on Louisiana on Aug. 29, 2005. The storm caused major damage to the Gulf Coast from Texas to central Florida while powering a storm surge that breached the system of levees meant to protect New Orleans from flooding.

Nearly 2,000 people died, most in New Orleans. Eighty percent of the city was flooded for weeks. One million people were displaced.

Video of residents seeking refuge on rooftops, inside the Superdome and at the convention center dominated news coverage as Katrina came to symbolize government failure at every level. The storm went down in history as the costliest natural disaster to strike the U.S., with $150 billion in damage to homes and other property. It was also one of the deadliest.

In his planned speech, Obama said Katrina helped expose structural inequalities that long plagued New Orleans and left too many people, especially minorities, without good jobs, affordable health care or decent housing and too many kids growing up in the midst of violent crime and attending inefficient schools.

Ten years out from Katrina, the rebirth underway in New Orleans has been helped by billions of dollars in federal recovery money, much of it funneled to the city under Obama's watch. The city has recovered much of its pre-storm population, new businesses are opening faster than the national average and better flood protection plans are in place.

Still, income inequality and rising crime rates are among the challenges that remain in a place Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls "America's comeback city."

Obama says acknowledging the loss and pain Katrina caused is important, "not to harp on what happened, but to memorialize it."

"We do this not in order to dwell in the past, but in order to keep moving forward," he says. "Because this is a city that slowly, unmistakably, together, is moving forward."

Obama says the rebuilding was not simply to restore New Orleans as it had been. "It was to build a city as it should be — a city where everyone, no matter who they are or what they look like or how much money they've got has an opportunity to make it."

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Obama would stress that the federal government and communities need to start investing in "resilience" so that they will be ready for the more intense storms and wildfires that a warming planet will bring.

"There's no denying what scientists tell us, which is that there's reason to be concerned about these storms getting worse and more violent," he told reporters.

Obama's plan to sound a fresh alarm about climate change didn't sit well with Gov. Bobby Jindal, a Republican waging a long-shot bid for his party's presidential nomination who told the president that the anniversary is a time to mourn the loss of loved ones, not espouse "the divisive political agenda of liberal environmental activism."

"A lecture on climate change would do nothing to improve upon what we are already doing," Jindal told Obama in a letter Wednesday. "Quite the opposite; it would distract from the losses we have suffered, diminish the restoration effort we have made and overshadow the miracle that has been the Louisiana comeback."

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ADAM EDELMAN Aug-24-2015 107 0
Amid growing rumors that Vice President Biden could jump into the 2016 race, the White House on Monday offered glowing words for President Obama’s No. 2 and hinted that the commander-in-chief could make an endorsement in the Democratic presidential primary.

“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of (Obama making) an endorsement during the Democratic primary,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing, adding that the President held Biden in very high regard.

Making Biden his running mate in 2008 “was the smartest decision (Obama) ever made in politics,” Earnest said, explaining that “there’s no one in American politics today who better understands” what it takes to run for the nation’s highest office.

Earnest, however, stopped short of indicating whom Obama would actually endorse as his successor: Biden — if he chose to run — or his former secretary of state, Hillary Clinton.

His comments came amid a surge of chatter over whether Biden would jump into the race to challenge Clinton for the nomination — a prospect that Biden was “increasingly leaning toward,” according to a new report.

Biden, who’s been rumored to have been seriously considering a run for weeks, is “weighing multiple political, financial and family considerations” before coming to a final decision, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

Speculation over a possible Biden campaign reached a fever pitch over the weekend after news emerged that the former senator had met privately with progressive powerbroker Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

The Biden camp dismissed the chatter as mere rumors.

“The vice president has not made a decision about his political future,” Biden spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff told The Journal. “Anyone speculating that he has made a decision is wrong.”

A high-profile hire announced by Biden’s team Monday could, however, signal that the nation’s No. 2 is moving forward with a run.

The vice president’s office revealed Monday that it had named Kate Bedingfield, a top film industry official and former spokeswoman for John Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign, as its new communications director.

White House officials are subject to strict limitations on engaging in political activity, and Bedingfield’s duties are expected to focus on the vice president’s official activities, not on preparations for a potential campaign, the Associated Press reported.

Meanwhile, Warren revealed late Sunday that she wouldn’t commit to running for re-election when her term expires in 2018, fueling a new round of rumors that she could consider taking the No. 2 spot on a 2016 Biden ticket.

“It’s too early to talk about that,” Warren said when she was asked by WBZ-TV whether she would promise to seek re-election in 2018.

“I don’t want to answer that question,” Warren said.

Warren, however, has pledged in the past to serve out her term.

The nature of her weekend sit-down with Biden remains unknown, but pundits have speculated that the two may have discussed what a potential Biden run would look like.

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AP Jul-14-2015 411 0
The mother of former Georgia Tech standout and Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas was among 46 nonviolent drug offenders to get their sentences commuted by President Barack Obama on Monday.

Katina Smith was sent to prison for narcotics trafficking in 2000, a crime for which she was supposed to serve 24 years. However, in the largest number of commutations made by a president since the 1960s, Obama reduced that sentence Monday, ordering Smith to be released Nov. 10 — two years earlier than expected.

Smith, 42, was convicted in the Middle District of Georgia on one count of conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute. She is currently housed at the Tallahassee Federal Correctional Institution in Tallahassee, Fla., according to prison records.

Thomas’ mother was offered and refused a reduced sentence for testifying against her mother, Minnie Pearl Thomas, who was arrested alongside her in 1999 for crack cocaine distribution. Minnie Thomas was reportedly sentenced to life in prison since she was a third-time offender and will remain in prison, where she and Smith have been since Demaryius was 11 years old.

Obama reportedly wrote a personal letter to each of the prisoners whose sentences he commuted, the majority of whom were sentenced to more than 2o years in prison, with 14 sentenced to life. The White House released a video Monday in which the president said their sentences “didn’t fit the crime.”

“These men and women were not hardened criminals,” Obama said.

Thomas, a Montrose native who attended Georgia Tech, was selected by the Broncos in the first round of the 2010 NFL Draft. He posted a Facebook photo of his mother Monday with the caption: “God is good.. Great news today, My Best lady come home November 10.. Godbless..”

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reuters Jul-13-2015 299 0
President Barack Obama reduced the prison sentences of 46 inmates on Monday, bringing the commutations he has granted to a total of 89, a number still far shy of the thousands his administration originally estimated it would make.

Obama has said reforming the complex U.S. criminal justice system to reduce the number of people serving long sentences for non-violent drug crimes is one of the top priorities for his remaining time in office.

"Their punishments didn't fit the crimes," Obama said of those whose sentences he commuted in a video statement on Monday.

Obama said he hoped to work with a bipartisan group of lawmakers on criminal justice reforms. But so far legislative fixes have stalled in Congress.

With only 5 percent of the world's population, the United States accounts for about 25 percent of the world's prison population, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

The Justice Department launched a program in April 2014 to systematically identify prisoners serving time for crimes they were sentenced for under laws that have since been changed to carry less severe punishments. Traditionally, presidents have granted pardons or commutations on a one-off basis.

Justice Department officials estimated the review would affect thousands, especially crack cocaine offenders sentenced when the drug still carried a sentence equivalent to someone caught with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine.

But lawyers tasked with reviewing applications for reduced sentences say the complexity of the cases, and high number of applications, caught them off guard and created a backlog.

"The response was overwhelming," said Cynthia Roseberry, director of Clemency Project 2014, which works with volunteer lawyers to process applications for the Justice Department to consider.

Roseberry's team received 18,000 applications in the first two weeks of the clemency initiative. They have now received 30,000 and determined 13,000 failed to qualify.

Roseberry said lawyers were now racing against the clock to review as many applications as possible before Obama leaves office in early 2017.

Applicants qualify only if they have no record of violence, no significant ties to a gang or drug cartel, have been in prison at least 10 years and have demonstrated good behavior while incarcerated.

Only very recently has the review process started running effectively, said George O'Connell, a California-based former U.S. Attorney now providing pro bono legal assistance to prisoners.

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AP Jul-09-2015 286 0
More than 50 years after South Carolina raised a Confederate flag at its Statehouse to protest the civil rights movement, the rebel banner will be removed Friday in a state where such a reversal seemed unthinkable a month ago.

The flag will be pulled down from the Capitol's front lawn and the flagpole it flies on during a ceremony at 10 a.m. Friday, said Chaney Adams, a spokeswoman for Republican Gov. Nikki Haley. Then, the banner will be taken to the Confederate Relic Room for display.

Haley will sign the bill — which passed the state House early Thursday after 13 hours of debate — at 4 p.m. Thursday in the Statehouse lobby. The measure requires that the flag come down within 24 hours of her signature.

After the House passed the bill, there were hugs, tears and high fives in the chamber. Members snapped selfies and pumped their fists. But some expressed sadness that part of their heritage is being threatened.

Hours after the vote, Republican Rep. Jonathon Hill said he feared the move could be part of a regional or nationwide campaign targeting Confederate and Civil War-era history.

"Hopefully it ends here, and we move forward, and we can put all of this behind us," said Hill, one of 27 House members who opposed removing the flag on a key vote. He said he won't attend Friday's ceremony because of obligations in his district.

The push to bring it down altogether was revived after nine black churchgoers, including state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, were gunned down during Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston on June 17.

Police said the white gunman's motivation was racial hatred. Then, photos surfaced of the suspect, Dylann Roof, posing with Confederate flags and other Civil War symbols, and burning an American flag. Roof has yet to enter a plea to nine counts of murder, but Republicans who long courted Confederate flag supporters quickly abandoned them after the killings.

"I am 44 years old. I never thought I'd see this moment. I stand with people who never thought they would see this as well," said House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, who called the victims martyrs. "It's emotional for us not just because it came down, but why it came down."

Republican Rep. Rick Quinn, who offered an amendment that would have delayed the flag's removal, was satisfied after lawmakers promised to find money for a special display in the state's Confederate Relic Room for the flag being removed, as well as the one taken down from the dome in 2000.

Back-to-back votes enabling the flag's removal came around 1 a.m. Thursday after more than 13 hours of passionate and contentious debate.

As House members deliberated, there were tears of anger and shared memories of Civil War ancestors. Black Democrats, frustrated at being asked to show grace to Civil War soldiers as the debate wore on, warned that the state was embarrassing itself.

Changing the Senate bill could have meant taking weeks or even months to remove the flag, perhaps blunting momentum that has grown since the church massacre.

Rep. Jenny Horne, noting that Confederate President Jefferson Davis was her ancestor, scolded fellow Republicans for stalling the debate with dozens of amendments.

She cried as she remembered Pinckney's funeral and his widow, who was hiding with one of their daughters in a church office as the gunman fired dozens of shots.

"For the widow of Sen. Pinckney and his two young daughters, that would be adding insult to injury and I will not be a part of it!" she screamed into a microphone.

She said later that didn't intend to speak, but got frustrated with her party members.

Opponents of removing the flag talked about grandparents who passed down family treasures and lamented that the flag had been "hijacked" or "abducted" by racists.

Rep. Mike Pitts, who remembered playing with a Confederate ancestor's cavalry sword while growing up, said that for him, the flag is a reminder of how dirt-poor Southern farmers fought Yankees not because they hated blacks or supported slavery, but because their land was being invaded.

Those soldiers should be respected just as soldiers who fought in the Middle East or Afghanistan, he said, recalling his own military service. Pitts then turned to a lawmaker he called a dear friend, recalling how his black colleague nearly died in Vietnam.

But black lawmakers had their own family stories to tell. Joe Neal talked about tracing his family back to four brothers. They were brought to America in chains and bought by a slave owner named Neal, who changed their last names and pulled them apart from their families.

"The whole world is asking, is South Carolina really going to change, or will it hold to an ugly tradition of prejudice and discrimination and hide behind heritage as an excuse for it," Neal said.

Other Democrats suggested that any delay would enable Ku Klux Klan members to dance around the flag during a rally they planned for July 18.

Instead, Democrats invoked a phrase Gov. Haley often says, calling it "a great day in South Carolina."
Wednesday, July 8, 2015, i …

The governor issued her own statement: "It is a new day in South Carolina, a day we can all be proud of, a day that truly brings us all together as we continue to heal, as one people and on," she said.

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Emily Badger Jul-08-2015 323 0
When the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1968, it barred the outright racial discrimination that was then routine. It also required the government to go one step further — to actively dismantle segregation and foster integration in its place — a mandate that for decades has been largely forgotten, neglected and unenforced.

Now, on Wednesday, the Obama administration will announce long-awaited rules designed to repair the law’s unfulfilled promise and promote the kind of racially integrated neighborhoods that have long eluded deeply segregated cities like Chicago and Baltimore. The new rules, a top demand of civil-rights groups, will require cities and towns all over the country to scrutinize their housing patterns for racial bias and to publicly report, every three to five years, the results. Communities will also have to set goals, which will be tracked over time, for how they will further reduce segregation.

“This is the most serious effort that HUD has ever undertaken to do that,” says Julian Castro, the secretary of the department of Housing and Urban Development, who will announce the new rules in Chicago on Wednesday. “I believe that it’s historic.”

Officials insist that they want to work with and not punish communities where segregation exists. But the new reports will make it harder to conceal when communities consistently flout the law. And in the most flagrant cases, HUD holds out the possibility of withholding a portion of the billions of dollars of federal funding it hands out each year

The prospect of the new rules, which will also cover housing patterns that exclude other groups like the disabled, has already spurred intense debate. Civil rights groups pushed for even tougher rules but say HUD’s plans represent an important advancement on what’s been one of the most fraught frontiers of racial progress.

“Housing discrimination is the unfinished business of civil rights,” says Sherrilyn Ifill, the president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. “It goes right to the heart of our divide from one another. It goes right to the heart of whether you believe that African American people’s lives matter, that you respect them, that you believe they can be your neighbors, that you want them to play with your children.”

But conservatives have sounded alarm. Republicans in the House of Representatives, worried by what they see as government intrusion into local planning, have already tried to defund implementation of the rule. Conservative commentators say it represents an experiment in “social engineering” in which the federal government will force white suburbs to change their racial makeup.

“Let local communities do what’s best in their communities, and I would predict we’d end up with a freer and fairer society in 20 years than we have today,” says Rick Manning, the president of Americans for Limited Government. “Far freer and fairer than anything that would be dictated from Washington.”

The centerpiece of the new rule is a vast trove of geographic data covering every community in the country — its racial makeup, its poverty rate, its concentration of housing vouchers and public housing, as well as the quality of its schools and its public transit. Nearly all of this data, already gathered by the government, comes from publicly available sources like the Census. But HUD hopes the database will enable communities to more clearly track where poverty and segregation overlap, where housing voucher recipients live relative to good schools, which neighborhoods contain no affordable housing at all.

The premise of the rule is that all of this mapped data will make hidden barriers visible — and that once communities see them, they will be much harder to ignore.

The administration’s announcement comes less than two weeks after the Supreme Court reaffirmed the power of the Fair Housing Act to ban housing policies that harm minorities. After a years-long delay, it is also arriving during a rare civil-rights moment, as the nation returns to familiar questions from the 1960s about the underlying causes of racial unrest in American cities.

“There is no question in my mind that part of the issue with Baltimore or Ferguson is about the relationship between the community and the police, but it’s much deeper than that,” Castro says. “It’s also fundamentally about people having opportunity in their lives. And where you live, in many ways, dictates the level of opportunity that you have.”

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SABRINA CASERTA Jul-01-2015 310 0
Corrupt ex-state Sen. Malcolm Smith was sentenced Wednesday to seven years in prison for attempting to bribe his way onto New York City's Republican mayoral ballot in 2013.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas imposed the sentence in White Plains Federal Court on the once-powerful Queens pol, who was stone-faced throughout the proceeding.

Karas also sentenced former Queens GOP leader Vincent Tabone to 3 1/2 years for his role in the convoluted $200,000 scheme to buy Smith’s way into City Hall.

“Bribes and kickbacks should never play a role in the selection of candidates for public office,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said.

“By attempting to buy and sell a spot on New York City’s mayoral ballot, Malcolm Smith and Vincent Tabone corrupted one of the most fundamental tenets of the democratic process, that candidates cannot bribe their way onto a ballot.”

Prosecutors said Smith, the former Democratic majority leader in the state Senate, tried to buy the Republican nomination by having a rich developer — who was actually an undercover FBI agent — pay for the the backing of the Bronx and Queens Republican machines. Smith also agreed to steer $500,000 in state money towards a real estate development in Spring Valley, N.Y., for the undercover agent and a cooperating witness.

Smith, who represented parts of Queens, did not speak in court.

He had sought a sentence of only a year and a day, arguing that he pursued the bribery scheme not for financial gain but out of a desire to help the people of New York City.

“He wasn't buying a seat; he was just looking for the opportunity to run,” his attorney Gerald Shargel said.

But Karas wasn’t buying that argument, though he did note Smith’s “good deeds” factored in the sentence.

“Just because Mr. Smith wasn't lining his pockets, doesn't mean he wasn't engaging in good, old-fashioned bribery,” Karas said. “The person who benefited the most in this scheme is the one who wanted to be the mayor, even if he wanted to be a good mayor.”

Prosecutors said Tabone accepted $20,000 during a boozy dinner at Sparks Steak House in Midtown on Smith’s behalf from the undercover FBI agent. He also attempted to persuade a witness in the case to not testify against him.

“I accept full responsibility for my actions. Politics can be a noble and worthy endeavor, but my conduct was not. It was dead wrong. If you do what I did, you'll be where I am,” Tabone said.

Former City Councilman Dan Halloran, who attempted to negotiate the bribes for Smith’s spot on the ballot, has already been sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Shargel said Smith would appeal the sentence. He must surrender on Sept. 21 and asked to be locked up at Otisville Correctional Facility.

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Jun-25-2015 309 0
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday rejected a challenge to the reach of the Obama health care law, rescuing the program from a potentially fatal legal challenge for the second time since Obamacare's inception.

By a 6-3 vote, the justices said consumers qualify for a subsidy that lowers the cost of premiums whether they buy their coverage through federal or state exchanges. Chief Justice John Roberts wrote the opinion.

"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," the court wrote in its majority opinion .

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the dissenters, said people should start calling the law "SCOTUScare."

"This Court, however, concludes that this limitation would prevent the rest of the Act from working as well as hoped. So it rewrites the law to make tax credits available everywhere. We should start calling this law SCOTUScare."

More than six million lower-income Americans who get their health insurance through the federal marketplace or exchange — HealthCare.Gov — depend on the subsidies, reducing their premiums an average of 72 percent, saving an average of $270 a month.

Opponents of the law claimed that the actual wording of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress made subsidies available only to insurance customers who bought their policies through "an exchange established by the state" where the policyholders live.
If the challengers had prevailed, customers who bought their insurance on the federal exchange — by far the majority of those insured by Obamacare — would have lost the subsidies. Only 16 states now have their own health exchanges up and running.

The health insurance industry had warned that if the challenge succeeded, the Affordable Care Act would have entered a "death spiral" — with costs rising for a shrinking number of participants, eventually causing the system to collapse.

Among the law's provisions are requirements that insurance companies cover people with pre-existing conditions and that nearly all Americans obtain health insurance. Congress knew that those components of the health care system would not work, the Obama administration had argued, if the subsidies that make insurance affordable for millions of people were available only on state exchanges

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