President Obama’s stern warning that it would be “an unprecedented extraordinary step” for the Supreme Court to overturn his signature health care law was “the reverse of intimidation,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.
“He certainly was not contending that the Supreme Court doesn’t have as its right and responsibility to overturn laws passed by Congress as unconstitutional,” Carney said during a fiery exchange with White House reporters. ”He was referring to 85 years of judicial precedent, of Supreme Court precedent, with regard to matters like the one under consideration.”
In what seemed like a pre-emptive strike, the president said Monday 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,” adding that he would “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.”
In his defense today, Carney said the president did “not at all” regret using the word “unprecedented.”
“His point about Congress was simply that the Supreme Court, since the New Deal, has deferred to the legislature, those who are elected by people around the country, to write laws for them and, in this matter, on matters of national economic importance, to pass laws that regulate the economy and regulate areas of the economy like our health care market,” he said.
Obama’s comments had prompted criticism that he was pressuring the court, and led one federal judge to demand that the administration formally explain the president’s statement.
Following the request from U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Jerry Smith, Attorney General Eric Holder defended Obama’s comments Wednesday but said the Justice Department would “respond appropriately.”