President Obama said Monday that he remains confident the Supreme Court will uphold his administration’s sweeping health care legislation, arguing that overturning the law would amount to an “unprecedented, extraordinary step” of judicial activism.
In his first comments since the court wrapped up oral arguments last week in its review of the 2010 law, Obama called the legislation that requires the uninsured to purchase health care coverage “constitutional.”
“Ultimately, I am confident 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 during a Rose Garden news conference.
“I just want to remind conservative commentators that for years what we have 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. “Well, this has been a good example. I am pretty confident this court will recognize that and not take that step.”
During the high court’s three-day review of the law, justices on the right of the nine-member panel appeared at least open to declaring the heart of the legislation unconstitutional and voiding the rest of the 2,700-page law. Such a ruling would represent a major blow for Obama, who has counted the health care overhaul as one of the most momentous domestic achievements of his presidency.
The future of “Obamacare” has become a major issue on the campaign trail with Republicans accusing the president of government overreach on a sharply partisan issue of how to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
Obama was asked about the health care law during a joint news conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon, after the three leaders met at the White House for a North American summit.
Obama emphasized the costs associated with overturning a law that his administration already has begun to implement. He said 2.5 million young people have coverage who otherwise would not and tens of thousands of Americans with preexisting conditions also are covered by insurance thanks to the legislation.
Thirty million more Americans stand to benefit once the law is fully implemented by 2014, Obama said.
“So there’s not only an economic element and a legal element, but a human element to this,” Obama said. “Hopefully, that’s not forgotten in this political debate.”
Yet despite the high stakes, White House officials have refused to acknowledge whether they are planning for contingencies in the case of a loss when the court announces its decision in June. Senior administration officials declined to lay out potential options in a briefing for reporters Monday morning.
Asked about a plan B, Obama said: “I’m confident this will be upheld because it should be upheld. That’s not just my opinion. That’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who examined this law even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this legislation or my presidency.”