The President vs. the Court

At a joint press conference today with President Calderon of Mexico, and Prime Minister Harper of Canada, President Obama was asked whether, in light last week’s oral arguments, he was concerned the Supreme Court might strike down the individual mandate or other portions of his health care reform law.  According to the White House transcript, he responded:

With respect to health care, I’m actually — continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law.  And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional.  That’s not just my opinion, by the way; that’s the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.

I think it’s important — because I watched some of the commentary last week — to remind people that this is not an abstract argument.  People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions. . . .

And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care.  So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this.  And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.

Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.  And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.  Well, this is a good example.  And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step. . . .

I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld.  And, again, that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.

Gerald Magliocca believes these comments were “foolish” and akin to throwing rocks at tigers.

Is lecturing the Court while the case is under submission the best way to persuade, say, Justice Kennedy? The same Justice Kennedy who wrote Citizens United and was called out by the President at the State of the Union Address? Sometimes “No comment” is the best answer.

President Obama was not always opposed to the Supreme Court “overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” In 2008, while running for President, then-Senator Obama praised the Supreme Court’s Boumediene decision, which overturned bipartisan national security legislation.  According to the June 13, 2008 Los Angeles Times he called the decision “an important step toward reestablishing our credibility as a nation committed to the rule of law and rejecting a false choice between fighting terrorism and respecting habeas corpus” and praised the Court’s rejection of President Bush’s “attempt to create a legal black hole at Guantanamo.”

UPDATE: Lyle Denniston also comments here.

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