Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell blasted President Obama on Thursday, telling him to “back off” from comments earlier this week where he appeared to question the constitutional powers of the Supreme Court and the possibility that it could overturn his health care law.
“The president crossed a dangerous line this week,” the Kentucky Republican said to the Lexington Rotary Club, “and anyone who cares about liberty needs to call him out on it. The independence of the court must be defended.”
On Monday, Mr. Obama suggested it would be “activist” and an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” for the nine “unelected” justices to overturn the law, prompting outcries from leading Republicans and many legal scholars that he was trying to intimidate the court.
The president later narrowed his comments, saying the court hasn’t overturned economic regulation like the Affordable Care Act since the New Deal era. Saying the court’s decision must be respected, Mr. Obama added that he believed the justices take their responsibilities “very seriously.”
But that didn’t stop Mr. McConnell from accusing Mr. Obama of trying to undermine the court.
“Regardless of how the justices decide this case, they’re answerable, above all, to the Constitution they swore to uphold,” he said. “The fact that this president does not appear to feel similarly constrained to respect their independence doesn’t change that one bit.
“So respectfully, I would suggest the president back off.”
The Department of Justice is also expected to submit a three-page explanation later in day clarifying whether it believes the court can overturn laws passed by Congress, responding to the order of a federal judge in Texas who said Mr. Obama’s comments cast his beliefs on that in doubt.