“The point I was trying to make is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws, and all of us have to respect it,” he said. “But it is precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly-elected legislature, our Congress.”
He added: “So the burden is on those who would overturn a law like this.”
Obama appears to be refining a message that could become a central campaign theme should the high court strike down part or all of the law.
The legal challenge to the reform law centers on the measure’s so-called individual mandate – a government requirement that all Americans purchase an approved level of health insurance or pay a penalty.
At least five members of the Supreme Court expressed significant skepticism or concern about the prospect of ordering citizens to engage in a commercial transaction. Several justices said that if the government could order Americans to buy a product with the intent of regulating the purchase of that product there was nothing the federal government couldn’t regulate under its Commerce Clause powers.
Such a concept of federal power runs counter to the system of enumerated and limited national power established by the Founding Fathers, these justices said.
At the Supreme Court, the Obama administration argued that the justices should defer to the collective judgment of Congress to decide what could and could not be regulated under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
While it is true that the court has not invalidated such a major act of Congress since the 1930s, it is also true that Congress had never before advanced such an expansive concept of federal power.
Obama stressed that there was more to the constitutional showdown than just legal precedents and conflicting jurisprudential doctrines. “There is a human element to this that everyone has to remember,” he said. “It’s not an abstract exercise.”