Speaking from the White House Rose Garden this morning, President Barack Obama reminded the Supreme Court justices that they have a responsibility to show “judicial restraint” as they evaluate the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.
“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.
“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,” he added, closing with, “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. Well, this is a good example, and I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”
His words were music to the ears of many supporters of the legislation, but some were taken aback by his comments, worrying that he “went too far” in suggesting that the court shouldn’t overturn the law if it saw fit. The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus wrote today:
And yet, Obama’s assault on “an unelected group of people” stopped me cold. Because, as the former constitutional law professor certainly understands, it is the essence of our governmental system to vest in the court the ultimate power to decide the meaning of the constitution. Even if, as the president said, it means overturning “a duly constituted and passed law.