Obama Seeks To Clarify Remarks on High Court's Health Reform Law Case

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On Tuesday, President Obama softened his stance on last week's Supreme Court oral arguments over the constitutionality of the federal health reform law after his remarks quickly drew strong criticism for several Republican lawmakers, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Baker [1], "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/3).

Background

In his first public comments about last week's oral arguments, Obama on Monday said he is "confident that this law will be upheld because it should be upheld" and warned the justices that striking it down would be an "unprecedented, extraordinary step" (California Healthline, 4/3).

Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), during a radio interview in his home state on Tuesday, accused Obama of "threatening" the justices, adding that the president crossed the line with his remarks. "What President Obama is doing here isn't right. It is threatening, it is intimidating," Johanns said (Strauss, "Blog Briefing Room," The Hill, 4/3).

Obama's Latest Comments

During the Associated Press' annual meeting of newspaper executives and editors on Tuesday, Obama clarified that he does not expect the justices to strike down the law because "they take their responsibilities very seriously" (Feller, AP/Miami Herald, 4/2).

He added, "The point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution, and all of us have to respect it" (Baker [1], "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/3). In explaining his use of the word "unprecedented," Obama said, "We have not seen the court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on a economic issue like health care -- as I think most people would clearly consider commerce -- a law like that has not been overturned ... at least since the '30s" (Winfield Cunningham, Washington Times, 4/3).

Other Republicans Respond to Monday's Comments

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Obama's remarks on Monday are an indicator of Democrats' election strategy to campaign against the Supreme Court if they overturn the health reform law. McConnell said the remarks "reflect not only an attempt to influence the outcome, but a preview of Democrat attacks to come if they don't get their way" (Ethridge, CQ Today, 4/3).

Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rejected Obama's claim that overturning the health reform law would amount to judicial activism, The Hill's "Blog Briefing Room" reports (Sink, "Blog Briefing Room," The Hill, 4/3).

During an appearance on Fox News' "Fox and Friends" on Tuesday, Romney said, "An activist court is one that departs from the Constitution and begins legislating from the bench," adding, "In this case, the Court is doing the job they were put in place to do," and if they decide to strike down the individual mandate or the entire law, "that will be a court following the Constitution" (Miller, National Journal, 4/3).

Federal Judge Ask DOJ to Clarify Remarks

A federal judge on Tuesday asked the Department of Justice to clarify what Obama meant by "judicial restraint" and whether that means that the Obama administration believes that the Judicial Branch has the right to overturn unconstitutional laws, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Pecquet, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/3).

Judge Jerry Smith, a Reagan appointee on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Texas, issued the demand during oral arguments in a lawsuit against the health reform law (Markon, Washington Post, 4/3). A three-judge panel that included Smith was reviewing a case challenging a "lesser-known" provision in the overhaul that sets limitations on physician-owned hospitals (Haberkorn, Politico, 4/3).

Smith asked that DOJ submit a three-page, single-spaced memo by noon Thursday (Washington Post, 4/3).

Conservative Research Group Finds Seniors Wary of the Overhaul, Do Not Understand It

Many seniors are wary of the federal health reform law and do not know specifics about its provisions, according to in-person surveys conducted by the conservative research group Resurgent Republic, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports.

During two recent focus groups in Michigan and Florida, seniors expressed disapproval of the overhaul when they were reminded about some of its more unpopular provisions, such as the individual mandate and the Independent Payment Advisory Board (Baker [2], "Healthwatch," The Hill, 4/3).


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