President Barack Obama struck a new low in his presidency yesterday, when he went after the Supreme Court during a press conference over the “Obamacare” case, saying it would be wrong for the “unelected” Supreme Court, to take the “unprecedented and extraordinary” decision, to strike down his signature health care legislation, when it was passed by an elected Congress saying he expected the justices to rule the act as constitutional. What makes President Obama’s comments dumb-founding is the fact that his former profession is that of a constitutional law professor.
The president’s comments have been viewed by many that not only will he be running against Congress in this November’s election, but if his signature piece of legislation is struck down for being unconstitutional he will make it an election issue. Polls show American’s are divided over the issue on ideological lines, with conservatives opposing the measure as a government overreach and liberals supporting it as a necessary overhaul of the health insurance system.
“In accordance with precedents out there, it is constitutional,” Obama said of the 2010 Affordable Care and Prevention Act passed by congressional Democrats with no Republican support. “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.”
The unique position of the Supreme Court stems, in large part, from the deep commitment of the American people to the Rule of Law and to constitutional government. The United States has demonstrated an unprecedented determination to preserve and protect its written Constitution, thereby providing the American “experiment in democracy” with the oldest written Constitution still in force.
The Constitution of the United States is a carefully balanced document. It is designed to provide for a national government sufficiently strong and flexible to meet the needs of the republic, yet sufficiently limited and just to protect the guaranteed rights of citizens; it permits a balance between society’s need for order and the individual’s right to freedom. To assure these ends, the Framers of the Constitution created three independent and coequal branches of government.
The complex role of the Supreme Court in this system derives from its authority to invalidate legislation or executive actions which, in the Court’s considered judgment, conflict with the Constitution. This power of “judicial review” has given the Court a crucial responsibility in assuring individual rights, as well as in maintaining a “living Constitution” whose broad provisions are continually applied to complicated new situations. The Court’s power of judicial review was not confirmed until 1803, when it was invoked by Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison. In this decision, the Chief Justice asserted that the Supreme Court’s responsibility to overturn unconstitutional legislation was a necessary consequence of its sworn duty to uphold the Constitution.
President Obama framed the issue as one affecting everyone rather than an “abstract argument.” “People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordablity of health care, their inability to get health care because of pre-existing conditions,” Obama later added: “Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.”
In addition, the president noted, 30 million people will gain coverage when the individual mandate and the rest of the law are fully implemented in 2014.
“I think it’s important and I think the American people understand and I think the justices should understand that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with pre-existing conditions can actually get health care,” Obama said. “So, there’s not only an 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.”
President Obama said he was confident the Supreme Court “will not take what would be an unprecedented extraordinary step of overturning a law” passed by Congress.
He also took aim at critics of the health care bill, noting that such opponents now were calling for the kind of “judicial activism” they have opposed in the past.
“I 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,” the president said.
“I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld,” Obama added.
If the justices uphold the law, Republicans are likely to say the only way to overturn it is to win control of the White House. If the court strikes down the legislation, Democrats will campaign to regain control of House of Representatives in order to save the reforms.
The president’s comments came hours after Congressman James Clayburn, assistant Democratic party leader in the House of Representatives, suggested that if the ruling goes against the healthcare legislation then Obama should take on the supreme court.
The Supreme Court’s decision is expected in June in the middle of the campaign for the November presidential election and is certain to become an election issue whichever way it goes, coming just months before November’s vote.
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