By Sam Baker - 04/05/12 06:11 PM EDT
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slammed President Obama on Thursday for his earlier comments about the Supreme Court, accusing the president of an “intolerable” assault on the Judicial Branch.
Obama said Monday that a decision overturning his healthcare law would be “unprecedented” and would demonstrate a “lack of judicial restraint.” Republicans seized on the comments, saying the president is questioning the legitimacy of an entire branch of government just because one ruling might not go his way.
This week’s rhetorical battle is a preview of the political fight that could erupt if the Supreme Court does strike down the healthcare law. Many Democrats have urged Obama to campaign aggressively against the court in November, but Republicans say that strategy would politicize a legitimate constitutional question.
McConnell — who attended the Supreme Court’s arguments over whether the healthcare law’s individual mandate is constitutional — said he would respect the justices’ decision if they side with Obama.
“I won’t mount a political campaign to delegitimize the Court in the way some in Congress have been urging this President to do, and in the way that he started to do earlier this week in the Rose Garden,” McConnell said.
Obama’s critics have honed in on his charge that it would be “unprecedented” to overturn the healthcare law. Deciding whether federal laws are constitutional is a big part of the Supreme Court’s job, and it has overturned plenty of laws.
Obama walked back the comments the next day, saying that he would respect the court’s decision but calling for deference to Congress and the presidency.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), an appellate lawyer, agreed with the president. “It would be an activist jump" for the court to overturn the health law's mandate, he said.
— Vicki Needham contributed.