President Barack Obama has now shared with us his view of the Supreme Court’s role, which is to uphold laws that are passed democratically by Congress, and that for the court to overturn such a law would be “unprecedented” and “judicial activism.”
As the Washington Post reports:
President Obama challenged the Supreme Court on Monday to uphold his administration’s sweeping health-care reform legislation, arguing that overturning the law would amount to an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” of judicial activism. …
Obama questioned the authority of the nine-member panel of unelected justices to reverse legislation that was approved by a majority vote in Congress. … “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,” Obama said during a Rose Garden news conference. “Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”
“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.”
In reality, the bill was pushed through the House by Democratic leaders on a narrow vote of 219-212, not winning any Republican support. Even if it were relevant, “strong majority” is not only a lie, it’s a stupid lie.
Of course, he’s being mendacious and hypocritical (evidently, our great Constitutional scholar-in-chief has never heard of Marbury v. Madison, or so you might think). But even so, putting forth this argument will come back to bite “progressives” — such as when the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that prohibits the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriage, which actually was passed by Congress with big (and bipartisan) majorities and signed into law by President Clinton, comes before the High Court.
More. David Boaz blogs at Politico:
It’s striking to me how the liberals and Democrats on this panel are bending over backward to defend the president’s strikingly inaccurate statement. … Everyone who observes the Supreme Court – every constitutional law professor, every reader of newspapers – knows that it’s just nonsense to say that it would be “an unprecedented, extraordinary step” to “overturn a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”
More. Conor Friedersdorf writes at The Atlantic:
President Obama’s recent remarks notwithstanding, it isn’t as if the left wants a Supreme Court that consistently respects legislative majorities. The iconic decisions of the Warren Court, Roe vs. Wade, and efforts to extend marriage rights to gays are all premised on the notion that striking down popular laws is sometimes a worthy enterprise. Nor is the left going to champion fidelity to the text of the Constitution as it was understood at the time of the country’s Founding. And as Lawrence v. Texas shows, liberals are comfortable celebrating when longstanding precedents are overturned ….
Except when they’re not.
And from conservative columnist Byron York:
A decision on DOMA, which has not yet arrived at the Supreme Court, lies in the future. But if those arguments come when Barack Obama is president, perhaps DOMA’s defenders will remind the administration of the president’s respect for duly constituted and passed laws.
Furthermore. In the comments, “another steve” responds to criticism of this post from our loyal left-liberal readers:
It’s just nonsense to say the president’s remarks were taken “out of context.” They weren’t very long, you can read them in all the major papers. And many liberals immediately defended them, until the party’s talking points changed.
Finally, from the Washington Post fact checker: “It’s clear that Obama’s ‘unprecedented’ comment was dead wrong, because the Supreme Court’s very purpose is to review laws that are passed by the nation’s democratically elected Congress — regardless of how popular or well-intentioned those laws may be…. “