Isn’t it ironic that the Smartest President Ever – according to one historian – can say something so ridiculous that most high school civics students would recognize his statements to be hogwash?
After the Supreme Court concluded its hearings on the Affordable Care Act (aka “ObamaCare”), President Obama said, during a White House news conference at which he clearly had to anticipate such questions, that it would be “unprecedented” and “extraordinary” for the Court to strike down his health care law as beyond the constitutional limits on the powers of Congress.
He concluded that sentence with another whopper: that ObamaCare “was passed by a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress.”
Lastly, he claimed that it would be “a good example” of “judicial activism” if “an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”
Each of those statements is, to put it charitably, dubious.
Judicial review of laws passed by Congress is among the basic responsibilities of our Supreme Court, first established in an opinion written in 1803 by Chief Justice John Marshall.
The Supreme Court has a 209-year history of invalidating laws it judges to be beyond the powers which “we the people” gave to government via the Constitution. Sometimes these decisions please conservatives; other times, they please liberals. No matter, a court ruling that all or parts of ObamaCare are unconstitutional would hardly be the first of its kind.
Obama surely knows better, even if he wasn’t really a “professor” of constitutional law, as Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign discovered.
So did the smartest, most articulate president simply misspeak? Did he think he could fool all of the people on this score? Or did he somehow think he could intimidate the Supreme Court?
Who did he think he was fooling by claiming ObamaCare “was passed by a strong majority”? It’s hard to fool the entire country about events that happened just two years ago amid one of the most highly watched debates in the last 50 years.
Congress passed ObamaCare 219 to 212 with every Republican plus 34 Democrats voting against it. Bare majority would be more accurate.
Finally, the President tried to steal a conservative critique of the courts – that of judicial activism – and redefine for his own purposes.
Obama, it seems, would have us believe that judicial activism occurs any time the Supreme Court strikes down an act of Congress. Or perhaps he wants us to think that conservatives hold this simplistic understanding.
Again, this is both intellectually lazy and factually dishonest.
The First Amendment says “Congress xx shall make no law xx respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . .” (emphasis added).
If Congress makes a law that prohibits certain forms of political speech just before an election, that’s a clear violation of the First Amendment, and the Court should rule it unconstitutional – as it did in another decision that Obama has criticized.
Judicial activism occurs when justices invalidate an act of Congress based upon their own opinions or policy preferences — not based on the plain text of the Constitution.
Activist judges try to cloak their activism in something that seems constitutional. Recall that Roe v. Wade struck down state laws restricting abortion not by quoting the constitution itself but by citing “penumbras” and “emanations” that were supposedly related to actual constitutional rights. Even many liberals now acknowledge that Roe was ill-conceived.
Such exaggerations and falsehoods merely add to the broken promises of ObamaCare. Rather than bring down premiums by $2,500 as promised, ObamaCare will increase premiums. We also know that even if you like your current health plan, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to keep it.
Perhaps the only thing more alarming than the excesses and overreach of ObamaCare is the long march of falsehoods and deliberate misrepresentations employed to justify it.
Mark Hillman served as Colorado Senate Majority Leader and State Treasurer. He is now a Centennial Institute Fellow. To read more or comment, go to www.MarkHillman.com.