Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says President Obama should refrain from "dangerous" and "unprecedented" comments directed at the Supreme Court as the justices deliberate the constitutionality of the health care law.
"Respectfully, I would suggest the president back off," McConnell, R-Ky., said today in a speech before the Rotary Club of Lexington. "Let the court do its work. Let our system work the way it was intended. The stability of our system and our laws and our very government depends on it. And the duties of the presidency demand it."
McConnell's comments came three days after President Obama commented about the Supreme Court's pending decision, saying he's sure the nation's top judges won't take an "unprecedented, extraordinary step" in overturning the law.
On Monday President Obama said he would "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 - and passed law. Well, there's a good example, and I'm pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step."
McConnell today said these "dangerous" comments are troubling, "completely unprecedented," and they call for a "firm response."
"The president seems to be saying that you're an activist if you're not stretching the limits of the limited powers the Constitution gives to the federal government," McConnell said. "This is not about what I think of the president as a person. It's what I think of the duties of the office he's sworn to uphold."
"He not only tried to publicly pressure the court into deciding a pending case in the way he wants it decided; he also questioned its very authority under the Constitution," McConnell continued. "With his words, he was no longer trying to embarrass the court after a decision; rather, he tried to intimidate it before a decision has been made. And that should be intolerable to all of us."
McConnell accused President Obama of starting "to mount a political campaign to delegitimize the Supreme Court."
The White House has defended President Obama's statement, saying his comments were "the reverse of intimidation."
"He made an observation about why he believes," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Wednesday, "that… the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, why he believes its constitutional, and why he believes that the Supreme Court will, in keeping with 80-plus years of judicial precedent and Supreme Court precedent, will defer to Congress on its authority to pass legislation to regulate issues of national economic importance like our health care system."