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Pres. Obama Takes on Supreme Court Hubris

President Barack Obama walks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada, left, and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico following their joint press conference in the Rose Garden of the White House, April 2, 2012. The three leaders are reflected in the base of flag polls situated on the Colonnade. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


Power is a beautiful thing if you learn how to wield it.

The Fox headline: Obama warns ‘unelected’ Supreme Court against striking down health law.

Obama knows his health care bill is the signature first term accomplishment of his Administration and the Democratic Party. A historic piece of legislation he is not going to leave in the hands of conservative judges who have a history of wielding their ideology recklessly.

So, a shot across the bow of the Roberts court, considering what they did on Citizens United, but especially what Chief Justice Rehnquist orchestrated in 2000, appointing Bush to the presidency, was a worthwhile effort to make.

It draws a line in the sand on an issue that is absolutely vital to Pres. Obama’s first term being seen as strong, rather than weak.

From Pres. Obama’s remarks on Monday…

Joint Press Conference by President Obama, President Calderon of Mexico, and Prime Minister Harper of Canada

PRESIDENT OBAMA: [...] 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.

The law that’s already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it. There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law. Parents don’t have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can’t be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition. That’s part of this law.

Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. 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.

So that’s just the part that’s already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2014.

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.

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15 Responses to Pres. Obama Takes on Supreme Court Hubris

  1. guyski April 3, 2012 at 7:30 am #

    Pres. Obama’s comments are kind of pointless. It is really doubtful that the Supreme Court justices are shaking in fear or second guessing themselves. After all they are a co-equal branch of government.

    His comments do not just apply to him and the review of the health care law, it applies to any future presidents, future congresses and laws. So any future Republican president and Republican congress can use the exact same argument when their laws are challenged.

    Or how about this scenario. (though doubtful, but a scenario no the less). He’s reelected the Republicans get healthy majorities in both houses. The Republcians pass some really draconian legislation. The President vetos it. Congress overrides the veto.

    Where does the administration go? What does the adminstration do? They can ‘t go to the Supreme Court. Afterall that would be a “extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

  2. Isis April 3, 2012 at 8:07 am #

    Good for President Obama, it is about time he shows some passion with regards to the whole health care debate and concern with what is happening in the SC. One of my major annoyance with Obama during the HC debates was his standoffishness and lack of public advocacy for the law, he better gears up for battle and use his bully pulpit this time, even if his ability to influence outcomes in the SC is limited and rightly so.

    He is absolutely right that this is more than a political and legal issue, it is a very real human and moral issue and affects real people. If a bunch of unelected conservative judges decide that millions do not deserve a chance to get better health care and strike down the whole law then I hope all hell breaks loose this summer.

  3. Romberry April 3, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    Wait. This is supposed to be a good thing? What we have here is Obama (and I guess Obama supporters) arguing in favor of the conservative (Republican) position on the courts.

    The Supreme Court adjudicates the constituionality of laws all the time, and there have been any number of times through our history where the Court has indeed thrown out laws that were “duly constituted and passed” by a strong majority in congress. There’s nothing unprecedented about that.

    I do not cheer the President here. The President is echoing Republican arguments about the courts which I found loathsome and meritless when Republicans made them. Those arguments remain loathsome and meritless now.

    • guyski April 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

      Exactly. By following this thought process, it can be applied to anything in the federal judicial system. A perfect example of this would be California’s proposition eight. This was by public vote (52% yes 48% no). A vote by the public has to be more solid/more pure democratic than legislation written by a democratically elected assembly.

      The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; which has appointed – non-elected judges overturned California gay marriage ban. So according to the statement by Pres. Obama; and all people who agree with that statement, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision was obviously wrong.

      FYI playing devil’s advocate here. Pro gay marriage here.

    • ogenec April 3, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

      Not this Obama supporter. I detest this type of argument. This debate has been settled since Marbury v. Madison, when Justice Marshall said “It is emphatically the province of the judiciary to say what the law is.” Democrats know this. Con Law professors, especially so. Let’s just wait to see what SCOTUS says.

      • Cujo359 April 3, 2012 at 2:17 pm #

        Yes, it’s part of the balance of powers, which is a system we don’t see much evidence of nowadays.

  4. jinbaltimore April 3, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Barack Obama, fierce advocate…for Aetna et al.

  5. Art Pronin April 3, 2012 at 10:02 am #

    Obama is right- a democratically elected congress is they to pass and shape hcr, not scotus. scotus is not another senate. it is a court.

  6. fangio April 3, 2012 at 10:09 am #

    It is an activist court, an activist court that democrats, thru their collaboration, helped republicans create. In case after case they have abandoned years of precedent and settled law; in Citizens United they actually came back in the middle of the summer to strike down not only the law but everything that came before it. Alito and Roberts are liars; they both said, at their confirmation hearings, that they would respect precedent and settled law yet have taken to even overruling district courts, something that was rarely done in the past. Good for Obama, not matter his motives, for bring it to peoples attention.

  7. Lake Lady April 3, 2012 at 10:13 am #

    What got me was Saclia acting as if actually reading the law was so beneath him.Invoking the 8th admendment to be cute.He couldn’t be bothered to get familar on something that affects so many american people.

    It was obvious he has not spent any time trying to understand the complexities of something on which he has the last word.His use of the brocolli agument was straight from the Lunz playbook. I thought his performance shameful and it reaked of hubris After all as someone said he has tickets to European Orchestral Concerts to think about when they go on recess.

    I wish Obama would take on that behavior. If the situation was reversed the Republicns would be howling about activist judges.

  8. casualobserver April 3, 2012 at 12:29 pm #

    “He couldn’t be bothered to get familar on something that affects so many american people.”

    Just as the sponsor of the legislation couldn’t be bothered to explain something that affects so many American people………“But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it.”

    “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.”

    The Court has done so 165 times (See p. 201 of this Congressional Research Service report.)

    A vote of 219 to 212…. a “strong” majority??? By contrast to this piddling margin, almost all of the 165 federal statutes which the Court has ruled unconstitutional had much larger majorities, most of them attracted votes from both Democrats and Republicans, and some of them were enacted nearly unanimously.

  9. Ramsgate April 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I think Obama put himself in this box by not going after the public option instead of cutting secret deals with the parasitic insurance industry when he had the chance, but be all that as it may, to the subject at hand.

    This little speech is typical Obama. He did his spiel; he figures they got the message and he’s done with that. And that’s the perennial problem. Unlike other (effective) leaders he should be giving different versions of this speech over and over again the way Reagan would. Or even Bush did when he was trying to sell the insane Iraq war to a skeptical American public. Drive the message home, until people are sick of it. Where are his communications wizards?

    He is the only person in America who does not understand the vicious nature of these conservatives. He thinks that by criticizing them once he’s taking them on. The presidency is all about persuasion and effective use of the bully pulpit — neither of which he seems to fully understand. The hacks in black robes know that his threats are meaningless; they do whatever they do with total impunity.

  10. Cujo359 April 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm #

    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.

    Then perhaps he can inform us of a case where insurance companies were required to cover pre-existing conditions,and they went broke? I don’t recall such a thing, and all the economists’ hand-waving doesn’t mean squat if there isn’t some actual example.

  11. mjsmith April 4, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    When something was ever passed that did not get the majority of votes? Democrats and Republicans voted against this debacle.

  12. whitepaw April 5, 2012 at 7:44 pm #

    mjsmith….. The quote was “strong majority”, not majority.

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