WASHINGTON – Presenting his own vigorous legal argument, President Obama on Monday issued a rare, direct challenge to the Supreme Court to uphold his historic health care overhaul. He declared that overturning it would erode critical protections for millions of Americans and amount to judicial activism by an unelected body.
Obama predicted that a majority of justices would uphold the law when the ruling is announced in June. But the president, himself a former law professor, seemed intent on swaying uncertain views in the meantime, both in the court of public opinion and in the minds of the justices about not overstepping the high courts bounds.
Ultimately, Im 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, Obama said at a Rose Garden news conference.
Congress approved the law two years ago by hard-fought party-line votes after a divisive national debate. Republican presidential contenders say they will make sure it is repealed if the Supreme Court doesnt throw it out first.
The presidents comments were his first since last weeks three days of court arguments. The law was questioned by the courts five conservative members during those hearings, sometimes in bitingly critical terms. The four liberal justices seemed likely to vote to uphold it.
The Supreme Court will decide whether to strike down part or all of the law, including its centerpiece, the requirement that nearly all Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty. On that point, Obama seemed to send a message directly to the justices.
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 get health care, Obama said.
So theres not only an economic element to this and a legal element to this, but theres a human element to this. I hope thats not forgotten in this political debate.
Obama also made a broader case against conservative Republicans.
For years what weve 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, Obama said.
He said overturning the health care law would be just such an example, and Im pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.