There is a lot of disparity in the rumor mill going around about President Obama’s recent comments regarding the Supreme Court. In case you live under a rock, the Supreme Court is set to rule on whether “Obamacare”, the President’s controversial national health care legislation, abides by the Constitution of the United States. Which is kind of redundant, because that’s what the Supreme Court is all about. They are the last word in the land on issues of constitutionality, and this situation is no different. They are not bound by their oaths to do anything except determine whether Obama’s health care plan is legal within the boundaries of the Constitution.
The Internet and media machine has been churning this last week, accusing President Obama of everything from threatening the Supreme Court to rebuking them. Many that oppose Obama have made it out as if he told the Supreme Court that they have no right to tell him what to do. Common Sense Conspiracy did some fact-checking, and we’re here to bring you the real dirt on this evolving story.
The actual comments that brought on this whole mess came in a news conference that President Obama held on Monday, April 2, 2012. This is the actual text of what he said:
“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.”
There is definitely some political posturing here. Basically, Obama said that he is confident that the Supreme Court would not overturn something the American people want. After all, Congress passed the legislation with a strong majority, and they were elected by whom? That’s right — THE PEOPLE. The insinuation is that mainstream America is behind the plan, because they voted for the people that are voting for it to happen. Now, Republicans and opponents of Obama rehashed that into that he told the Supreme Court it had no right to rule on this. In a way, they are right. He is trying to say that the will of the people should supersede the court. However, the will of the court should not exist, if it is operating correctly. A will is an opinion, an agenda, and the whole point of the Supreme Court is for it not to have one. Obama’s comments are meant to inspire the court to say “Well, the people want it, so should we really change something the people want?” However, the Supreme Court doesn’t consider any of that (or it shouldn’t at least) when it is making these decisions. The law has been passed. It’s accordance with the Constitution has been challenged, and the Supreme Court’s only mission is to examine the law, compare it to precedence and the law, and decide if it is constitutional as it stands. The will of the people has no bearing on the matter. Each Justice’s personal opinion on national health care should have no bearing on it either. This is what the Supreme Court does day in and day out, and hopefully, the President’s empty comments will have no effect on their decision.
But Obama did make a blunder in this comment. He said that it would be unprecedented for the Supreme Court to do something like that. Actually, any high school level introduction to government or law class might provide the answer to this one. In the year 1803, the Supreme Court ruled that a portion of the Judiciary Act of 1789 was unconstitutional. Chief Jusice John Marshall made a historic ruling in which he stated that the judges must interpret what the law is and that the Constitution shall always reign supreme, including over any law that is passed.
Don’t worry. Obama was pressed on the issue, but he backtracked saying that what he meant was that the Supreme Court rarely overturns laws that fall more in the economic and business category than general law. Obama is a senior lecturer in constitutional law at the University of Chicago, so one would like to hope he knows his stuff. In any case, when the smoke clears, President Obama did not tell the Supreme Court what to do, but he did try to make them look bad for doing it. That is, if they go in the opposite direction he wants them to go in. When it’s all said and done, his comments were aimed at shaping the public opinion if things go awry, not actually influencing the Supreme Court itself.