Obama's Message to Justices: Overturning Health Care Law Would be ‘Unprecedented’

Fred Lucas | April 2, 2012 | 5:43pm EDT
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President Barack Obama says he believes his health care law will be upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, Apr. 2, 2012. (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – President Barack Obama claimed confidence that his landmark health care law would be upheld by the Supreme Court despite the widely held consensus from legal experts that last week’s oral arguments before the court did not go well for the administration. Obama also implied that ruling the law unconstitutional would be "unprecedented" and could be viewed as “judicial activism.”

“We are confident that this will be over – that this will be upheld,” Obama said on Monday from the White House. “I’m confident this will be upheld because it should be upheld. Again, that’s not just my opinion. That’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors, academics and judges.”

Obama also said it would be “unprecedented” if the court took the “extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.”

The president signed the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) into law on Mar. 23, 2010. It had passed in the Senate on party lines (60-39): not one Republican senator voted for it. It also had passed in the House along party lines – 219 to 212 votes -- with 178 Republicans and 34 Democrats voting against it.

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“I think the justices should understand in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to insure people with pre-existing conditions actually get health care,” Obama said. “So, there is not only an economic element to this, but there is a human element to this and I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.”

In this March 28, 2012, file photo states' attorney generals, including Florida's Pam Bondi, left, walk down the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington at the end of arguments on the constitutionality of the health care law signed by President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

The individual mandate requiring that all Americans must buy health insurance, either by themselves, through their employer, or through the government or otherwise pay a penalty is the key point being challenged at the Supreme Court. The idea that the federal government can order Americans to buy a specific product or service, such as health care insurance, is considered unconstitutional and unprecedented by the attorneys arguing against the law.

“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,” Obama said. “I guess I would remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench is judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint. For an unelected group of people to somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law is a good example of that, and I’m pretty sure this court will recognize that and not take that step.”

Obama made his remarks during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican President Felipe Calderon in the Rose Garden, where he took a question from a reporter about the arguments before the high court where several justices seemed very skeptical about the individual.

“With respect to health care, I actually continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law,” Obama said “The reason is, in accordance to precedent out there, it’s constitutional.”

Obama said the law has expanded health coverage, and that should not be lost in the political and legal debate.

“The law that is already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care they wouldn’t otherwise have. There are tens of thousands of adults with pre-existing conditions who have health care right now because of this law,” Obama said. “Parents don’t have to worry about their children being able to get health care because they can’t be permitted from getting health care as a result of a pre-existing condition, that’s a part of this law. Millions of seniors are getting prescription drugs because of this law.”

“Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and their getting preventive care because of this law,” said the president. “So, that’s just the part that’s already been implemented. That doesn’t even speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it’s fully implemented in 2013.”

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