President Obama speaks as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Mexican… (Alex Wong / Getty Images )
President Obama says he remains confident that the Supreme Court will uphold his healthcare reform law, warning Monday that overturning it would be an "unprecedented, extraordinary step."
In his first public comments on the matter since the court heard arguments over the constitutionality of the law last week, Obama said that experts across the ideological spectrum, including conservative appellate court judges, shared his view that precedent supported the measure.
Beyond a legal justification for his administration's signature accomplishment, Obama also detailed the benefits of the law in arguing that there was a "human element" at play.
"This is not an abstract argument. People's lives are affected by the lack of availability of healthcare, the inaffordability of healthcare, their inability to get healthcare because of preexisting conditions," Obama said at a news conference in the Rose Garden, along with the leaders of Canada and Mexico.
"Ultimately I'm 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," he said.
Reflecting the political stakes, Obama also addressed "conservative commentators" that he said have long argued against "judicial activism," and bemoaned "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 this court will recognize that and not take that step," he said.
Here's Obama's full answer on the issue:
"I actually continue to be confident that the Supreme Court will uphold the law. And the reason is, because in accordance with precedent out there, it's constitutional.
"That's not just my opinion by the way. That's the opinion of legal experts across the ideological spectrum, including two very conservative appellate court justices that said this wasn't even a close case."
"I think it's important -- because I watched some of the commentary last week -- to remind people that this is not an abstract argument. People's lives are affected by the lack of availability of healthcare, the inaffordability of healthcare, their inability to get healthcare because of preexisting conditions.
"The law that's already in place has already given 2.5 million young people healthcare that wouldn't otherwise have it. There are tens of thousands of adults with preexisting conditions who have healthcare right now because of this law. Parents don't have to worry about their children not being able to get healthcare because they can't be prevented from getting healthcare as a consequence of a preexisting condition. That is part of this law.
"Millions of seniors are paying less for prescription drugs because of this law. Americans all across the country have greater rights and protections with respect to the insurance companies, and are getting preventive care because of this law.
"So, that's just the part that's already been implemented. That doesn't speak to the 30 million people who stand to gain coverage once it's fully implemented in 2014.
"And I think it's important, I think the American people understand and I think the justices should understand that in the absence of an individual mandate, you cannot have a mechanism to ensure that people with preexisting conditions can actually get healthcare.
"So there's not only an economic element to this and a legal element to this but there's a human element to this, and I hope that's not forgotten in this political debate. Ultimately I'm 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.
"And I'd 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 passed law. Well, this is a good example, and I'm pretty confident this court will recognize that and not take that step."
(In response to follow up question)
"I'm confident this will be upheld because it should be upheld. And again, that's not just my opinion, that's the opinion of a whole lot of constitutional law professors and academics and judges and lawyers who've examined this law, even if they're not particularly sympathetic to this particular piece of legislation or my presidency."
Original source: Obama: Overturning healthcare law would be 'extraordinary step'