California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Holder Affirms Federal Courts’ Powers, Defends Obama’s Comments

In a letter to a federal appeals judge on Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed the ability of federal courts to overturn federal law and defended recent comments by President Obama regarding the Supreme Court's possible ruling on the federal health reform law, which prompted the request for the letter, the New York Times reports.

On Monday, Obama said it would be "unprecedented, extraordinary step" for the "unelected" justices to overturn the overhaul (Cushman, New York Times, 4/5). Those comments prompted federal appellate Judge Jerry Smith of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to ask the Department of Justice to write a letter explaining the president's remarks (Perez, Wall Street Journal, 4/5).

In the letter to Smith, Holder wrote that the "power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute." However, he noted that prior Supreme Court cases support the notion that congressional acts should be presumed to be constitutional and should be overturned only in rare cases, the Washington Post reports (Markon, Washington Post, 4/5).

Holder also noted that federal courts "accord particular deference when evaluating the appropriateness of the means Congress has chosen to exercise its enumerated powers, including the Commerce Clause, to accomplish constitutional ends." He concluded that Obama's "remarks were fully consistent with the principles described herein" (Wall Street Journal, 4/5).

McConnell Tells Obama To 'Back Off' Supreme Court Justices

During a speech in Kentucky on Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Obama should "back off" from what Republicans believe is the president's attempts to intimidate the Supreme Court, CQ Today reports (Ethridge, CQ Today, 4/5).

McConnell said Obama had "crossed a dangerous line" with his remarks on judicial proceedings. He added, "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." Obama's questioning of Congress' authority under the Constitution is "completely unprecedented," he continued.

McConnell said that if the Supreme Court upholds the reform law, "I'll respect its independence" and "then I'll continue to do everything I can to have this law repealed through the legislative channels that remain available" (Zapler, "On Congress Blog," Politico, 4/5).

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