The Founding Fathers had the good sense to try to insulate the U.S. Supreme Court from the transitory winds of public opinion by writing into the Constitution the provision that members of the court are appointed rather than elected and serve for life unless they are impeached.
It’s shocking, then, to hear President Obama disapprovingly talk about the chance that an “unelected group of people” on the high court might overturn a law that was passed by “a democratically elected Congress.”
The president was referring, of course, to the Affordable Care Act (or ObamaCare, as it’s commonly called).
The story is HERE:
President Obama, employing his strongest language to date on the Supreme Court review of the federal health care overhaul, cautioned the court Monday against overturning the law — while repeatedly saying he’s “confident” it will be upheld…
The president, adopting what he described as the language of conservatives who fret about judicial activism, questioned how an “unelected group of people” could overturn a law approved by Congress.
Shame on him! Silly rhetoric about the judicial activism of an unelected Supreme Court is the stuff of wingnuts. For this Democratic president to employ the same sort of argument is completely out of character.
UPDATE: Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post also is TAKEN ABACK by the president’s remarks:
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.”
Of course, acts of Congress are entitled to judicial deference and a presumption of constitutionality. The decision to declare a statute unconstitutional, Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote in 1927, is “the gravest and most delicate duty that this court is called on to perform.”
But the president went too far in asserting that it “would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step” for the court to overturn “a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” That’s what courts have done since Marbury v. Madison. The size of the congressional majority is of no constitutional significance. We give the ultimate authority to decide constitutional questions to “a group of unelected people” precisely to insulate them from public opinion.
UPDATE II: Another Washington Post pundit, Greg Sargent, is NOT SO CRITICAL of what the president said:
To the fainting couch! Obama attacked the Supreme Court and threatened it with a backlash, should it strike down his tyrannical scheme to impose a government takeover of health care on the nation!
That’s what many conservative writers and even some centrist ones are arguing. They are saying that Obama’s words about the Court yesterday were “unsettling” and a “witch hunt,”and they’re likening them to F.D.R.’s efforts to pack the Court in retaliation for decisions striking down New Deal initiatives.
Please. If what Obama said yesterday is an “attack,” it’s pretty timid stuff indeed.
Obama made several key points in his comments yesterday that critics are citing. First, he said he was “confident” that the Court will uphold the law, that it’s in accordance with legal precedent, and that it’s Constitutional. He noted that legal experts of all stripes, including conservatives, agree. That’s not an attack on the court.