Obama making issue out of conservative Supreme Court
By Anne Gearan April 6, 2012 3:44AM
US President Barack Obama speaks during a bill signing in the Rose Garden of the White House April 5, 2012 in Washington, DC. Joined by Democratic and Republican lawmakers President Obama signed HR 3606, the "Jump start Our Business Startups (JOBS) Act", which aims to give start up and growing companies improved abilities to raise funds. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
Updated: May 7, 2012 8:24AM
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is laying groundwork to make the majority-conservative Supreme Court a campaign issue this fall, taking a political page from Republicans who have long railed against liberal judges who don’t vote their way.
The emerging Democratic strategy to paint the court as extreme was little noted in this week’s hubbub over Obama’s assertion that overturning his health care law would be “unprecedented.”
His statement Monday wasn’t completely accurate, and the White House backtracked. But Obama was making a political case, not a legal one, and he appears ready to keep making it if the high court’s five-member majority strikes down or cuts the heart out of his signature policy initiative.
The court also is likely to consider several other issues before the November election that could stir Obama’s core Democratic supporters and draw crucial independent voters as well. Among those are immigration, voting rights and a revisit of a campaign finance ruling that Obama has already criticized as an outrage.
“We haven’t seen the end of this,” said longtime Supreme Court practitioner Tom Goldstein, who teaches at Stanford and Harvard universities. “The administration seems to be positioning itself to be able to run against the Supreme Court if it needs to or wants to.”
While Obama has predicted victory in the health care case now before the court, his administration could blame overreach by Republican-appointed justices if the law is rejected, said Goldstein, who wrote a brief supporting the law’s constitutionality.
This can be dangerous ground, as Obama discovered.
Obama told a news conference on Monday that he was “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.”
A Republican-appointed federal judge took umbrage at the suggestion that federal courts might be powerless to overturn such laws, and ordered the Justice Department to provide written assurance. He insisted the response be at least three pages, single-spaced.
Attorney General Eric Holder took on that task himself, telling the judge Thursday that “the longstanding, historical position of the United States regarding judicial review of the constitutionality of federal legislation has not changed.”