Remarks of Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell to the Rotary Club of Lexington | April 5, 2012
I had originally planned to come over here today to talk about the economy and jobs. But President Obama made some comments about the Supreme Court earlier this week that troubled me, and that should trouble every American, frankly, and they demand a firm response. So if you’ll allow me, I’d like to start with that.
First, some context. As you’re all aware, last week the Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the president’s health care law. This is the same bill Congress passed two years ago on Christmas Eve on a straight party-line vote by the slimmest of margins after some backroom deals got it over the finish line. This bill is still deeply controversial. And if you believe the polls, most Americans think it’s unconstitutional.
Well, fortunately, in matters of constitutional interpretation, we’ve got a final arbiter in this country, and that’s the Supreme Court. So I and many others brought our legal arguments to the Court last week. And after a careful study of the law and the precedents, and after weighing the arguments on both sides, the Court will make its final determination. Whether I agree with it or not, I’ll respect the decision.
But, apparently, President Obama didn’t like the tenor of some of the questions the justices asked about the health care law during last week’s hearings, questions that highlighted the unprecedented power that the administration now has over your and everybody else’s health care as a result of its passage.
So earlier this week, the president did something that as far as I know is completely unprecedented: 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.
And if anybody had any doubt about that, it should have been dispelled on Tuesday, when a federal appeals court ordered an administration lawyer to clarify whether the administration does, in fact, believe that the courts of the United States of America have the right to determine whether laws passed by Congress violate the Constitution. This was a clear response to the president’s comments from earlier in the week, and proof positive of the signal it sent to the judiciary.
Now, the president’s words were particularly troubling given his past treatment of the Court. Two years ago, he used a State of the Union Address to publicly chastise the Court for its decision in another case he didn’t like — with members of the Court sitting just a few feet away.
He looked at the line that wisely separates the three branches of government, and stepped right over it. But what the president did this week went even farther. 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.