Perhaps it’s time someone explained the concept of federalism to President Obama. Or even encouraged him to read the Constitution he swore to protect when he entered office. Yesterday, during a press conference, President Obama stated that the Supreme Court overturning his Affordable Care Act would be an ‘unprecedented’ move by the ‘unelected’ members of the Court. His justification for warning the Court from overturning the bill- it was popular in Congress. These comments are just one episode in the ongoing saga of the President’s bizarre logic and incomprehension of the machinations of the American political system.
Obama stated that overturning the legislation would be unprecedented because it was passed by a majority of the democratically elected Congress. The Supreme Court adjudicates on legislation that is going into effect. In order for this to occur, the majority of Congress has to approve legislation. Bills can’t be approved by a minority of Congress. They simply die on the floor of the chamber. They are not brought before the Supreme Court to have their Constitutionality decided. Therefore, every bill that the Supreme Court scrutinizes has been approved by a majority of Congressional members. The Affordable Care Act is not an exception. This is not unprecedented- this is a policy that has been in places since the Constitution was ratified in 1788.
As to the Supreme Court being unelected, this is half –truth. Judges are first nominated by the president, and then vetted and approved or disapproved by the Senate. Last time I checked, the Senate is democratically elected by the people. They are supposed to represent the voices of their constituents. So, while Supreme Court justices may not be directly elected by the people, in theory, the people’s voice is still present in the process. Interestingly, when Newt Gingrich talked about changing Supreme Court rules to make judges directly accountable for their voters, he was crazy and had no respect for the Constitution. Apparently, the same standard doesn’t apply to Obama.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but popular opinion, Congressional or public, has absolutely no influence on how the Supreme Court adjudicates. Rather, they are there to decide if a piece of legislation is Constitutional in application. It doesn’t matter if every citizen in the country wants the individual mandate (over two thirds of citizens don’t), if the power to enforce a policy is not granted to the government through the Constitution, the Supreme Court has a responsibility to overturn it. It’s that simple. So, Obamacare’s popularity in Congress should have no bearing on the Court’s decision.
And that’s how federalism works. The Supreme Court is not directly answerable to the people purposely to isolate them from the turbulent emotions of public opinion. It is Congressional members who are supposed to take the views of their constituents into account and legislate accordingly. The Supreme Court is there to reign in their actions, not to mirror public opinion. That’s what’s outlined in the Constitution, and that’s how the federalist system works. If Obama actually read the Constitution, or the words of the Founders that he so despises, he would know this. But then he wouldn’t have the scapegoat of judicial activism to blame the failure of his key legislation on. Poor Barack.