Speaking at the Rotary Club in Lexington Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., urged President Obama to refrain from criticizing the Supreme Court as the justices deliberate the constitutionality of health care reform.
On Monday, the president talked about the pending case and said he was confident the nine justices would uphold his legislative package. But speaking about past criticisms of judicial activism by conservative pundits, Mr. Obama warned against an “unelected group” overturning the legislation.
McConnell says the president is trying to intimidate the court and called the remarks “unprecedented”, adding Mr. Obama has crossed a dangerous line.
“Let me be clear: I have no idea what the court will decide in this case. My own preference is well known. If the court upholds the law, I’ll be disappointed. I’ll disagree with it. But I’ll respect its independence. And then I’ll continue to do everything I can to have this law repealed through the legislative channels that remain available,” he says. “But here’s something I won’t do: I won’t mount a political campaign to delegitimize the Court in the way some in Congress have been urging this President to do, and in the way that he started to do earlier this week in the Rose Garden. I’ll respect the Supreme Court, even when I disagree with it.”
The administration has scrambled to clear up Mr. Obama’s remarks and the attorney general wrote a letter that acknowledged the judicial branches authority to review legislation, but reiterated that the courts “should show strong deference to Congress’ commerce-based regulations.”
During a briefing Thursday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney tried mightily to explain the president’s comments.
From The Huffington Post:
“Of course he was referring to the fact that it would be unprecedented in the modern era of the Supreme Court, since the New Deal era, for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation passed by Congress designed to regulate and deal with a matter of national economic importance, like our health care system. That is a fact.” Carney added, “He did not mean and did not suggest that it would be unprecedented for the court to rule any law is unconstitutional—that’s what the Supreme Court is meant to do.”
Besides GOP critics, legal scholars have also tore through the president’s remark that striking down the law “would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step” because it was passed by a “strong majority” in Congress. The USA Today pointed out there is ample evidence of the high court doing such and chided the former constitutional law professor so say otherwise.
McConnell says the court’s independence has to be protected and that both sides should wait until a decision is made.
“So respectfully, I would suggest the president back off,” McConnell says. “Let the court do its work. Let our system work the way it was intended. The stability of our system and our laws and our very government depends on it. And the duties of the presidency demand it.”