(Reuters) – President Barack Obama took an opening shot at conservative justices on the Supreme Court on Monday, warning that a rejection of his sweeping healthcare law would be an act of “judicial activism” that Republicans say they abhor.
Known as the “Affordable Care Act” or “Obamacare,” the measure to expand health insurance for millions of Americans is considered Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement.
A rejection by the court would be a big blow to Obama going into the November 6 presidential election.
Republican presidential candidates, who are vying to take on Obama in November elections, have promised to repeal the law if one of them wins the White House.
Obama’s advisers say they have not prepared contingency plans if the measure fails. But the president — who expressed confidence that the court would uphold the law — made clear how he would address it on the campaign trail if the court strikes it down.
“Ultimately, I am 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,”
President Obama’s full comments on SCOTUS and Health Care
Q Thank you, Mr. President. After last week’s arguments at the Supreme Court, many experts believe that there could be a majority, a five-member majority, to strike down the individual mandate. And if that were to happen, if it were to be ruled unconstitutional, how would you still guarantee health care to the uninsured and those Americans who’ve become insured as a result of the law?
And then a President for President Calderón and Prime Minister Harper. Over the weekend, Governor Mitt Romney said that the U.S. used to promote free enterprise around the world, and he said, “Our President doesn’t have the same feelings about American exceptionalism that we do, and I think over the last three or four years, some people around the world have begun to question that.” My question to the both of you is whether you think that American influence has declined over the last three to four years.
And, President Obama, if you’d like to respond to that, too.
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, on the second part of your question, it’s still primary season for the Republican Party. They’re going to make a decision about who their candidate will be.
It’s worth noting that I first arrived on the national stage with a speech at the Democratic Convention that was entirely about American exceptionalism, and that my entire career has been a testimony to American exceptionalism. But I will cut folks some slack for now because they’re still trying to get their nomination.
With respect to health care, I’m actually — continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is because, in accordance with precedent out there, it’s constitutional. That’s not just my opinion, by the way; that’s the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn’t even a close case.
I think it’s important — because I watched some of the commentary last week — to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the inaffordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.
The law that’s already in place has already given 2.5 million young people health care that wouldn’t otherwise have it. There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have health care right now because of this law. Parents don’t have to worry about their children not being able to get health care because they can’t be prevented from getting health care as a consequence of a preexisting condition. That’s part of this law.
Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to their insurance companies and are getting preventive care because of this law.
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 2014.
And I think it’s important, and I think the American people understand, and the I think the justices should understand, that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there’s not only a economic element to this, and a legal element to this, but there’s a human element to this. And I hope that’s not forgotten in this political debate.
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. And I’d just remind conservative commentators that for years what we’ve heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or a lack of judicial restraint — that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law. Well, this is a good example. And I’m pretty confident that this Court will recognize that and not take that step.
Q You say it’s not an abstract conversation. Do you have contingency plans?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’m sorry. As I said, we are confident that this will be over — that this will be upheld. I’m confident that this will be upheld because it should be upheld. And, again, that’s not just my opinion; that’s the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who have examined this law, even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency.