In his first public comments since court questioning last week suggested that it might find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, president Barack Obama Obama offered both a robust defense of the law and a barbed warning to justices thinking of striking it down, reports The New York Times.
Appearing at a press conference in the Rose Garden with Prime Minster Stephen Harper of Canada and President Felipe Calderon of Mexico, president Obama explained that he was confident the Affordable Care Act would be upheld.
“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,” Obama said at the news conference.
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, tells Reuters. A rejection by the court would be a big blow to Obama going into the November 6 presidential election.
The president noted, according to The Huff post, that millions of children have been given insurance coverage under the law, that changes have been made to Medicare’s prescription drug program and that insurance industry reforms have already been put in place.
“This is not an abstract argument. People’s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the in-affordability of health care, their inability to get health care because of pre-existing conditions,” he said.
“I think the American people understand and I think that the justices should understand that in the absence of the individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care. So there not only is an economic element to this, and a legal element to this, there is also a human element to this,” Obama added.
The Health care law forces Americans to buy private health insurance or face fines, in order to subsidise health coverage for those who can’t afford it, tells The Telegraph. The opponents of tha law claim that the federal government does not have the power under the US Constitution to force people to buy things.
Sceptical questioning during last week’s hearings by the Court’s conservative justices, as well as its “swing vote” Justice Anthony Kennedy, led legal experts to describe the law as being “on life support”. The Court will issue its verdict in late June.
“And I just remind conservative commentators that for years what we have heard is that 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,” Barack Obama said.
Meanwhile, 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.
A spokeswoman for Mitt Romney, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, took issue with Obama’s preemptive strike and his use of the word “unprecedented.”
“What was ‘unprecedented’ was the partisan process President Obama used to shove this unconstitutional bill through despite the overwhelming objections from Americans across the country,” said Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul.
“It’s not that common for presidents to get into direct verbal confrontations with the Supreme Court,” said Georgetown University law professor Louis Michael Seidman. “But it’s also not that common for the Supreme Court to threaten to override one of the president’s central legislative accomplishments.”
Public opinion toward the law is split, but, accoding to a senior administration official, only Republicans supported repealing it altogether. Another senior official said that Mr. Obama himself initially opposed the individual mandate, before concluding that it would help curb cost increases in health care.
“I think the American people understand and I think that the justices should understand that in the absence of the individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get health care.”
“So there not only is an economic element to this, and a legal element to this, there is also a human element to this,” President Obama added.