Mitch McConnell to Obama: ‘Back off’ the Supreme Court


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). (JASON REED/REUTERS)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) used a home state speech Thursday to deliver a message to President Obama: Leave the Supreme Court alone.

In a luncheon speech at the Rotary Club in Lexington, McConnell said he is disturbed by the president’s attempts to delegitimize the nine justices on the high court. Obama told reporters Monday that he expects the Supreme Court to uphold the 2010 health-care reform law and that failing to do so would amount to “unprecedented, extraordinary” judicial activism that conservatives have traditionally abhorred.

Some supporters and legal scholars sympathetic to Obama and the health-care law said this week that the president might have been better off keeping quiet.

Obama’s comments are part of a disturbing pattern, McConnell said. Two years ago “he looked at the line that wisely separates the three branches of government, and stepped right over it” when he chastised the court during his 2010 State of the Union address for its decision on campaign finance reform. Then again this week, Obama “went even farther,” McConnell said. “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. And that should be intolerable to all of us.”

The Senate Republican leader said he is hopeful that the court will invalidate the health care law. And if they don’t, “I’ll be disappointed. I’ll disagree with it. But I’ll respect its independence,” he said. “And then I’ll continue to do everything I can to have this law repealed through the legislative channels that remain available.”

“But here’s something I won’t do: 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. I’ll respect the Supreme Court, even when I disagree with it.”

McConnell’s comments join a growing chorus of Republicans who accuse the White House of preemptively attempting to tear down the court ahead of its decision on health care, expected by late June.

His comments come on the same day that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. offered assurances to a federal court that the Obama administration respects the authority of the courts.

Holder was responding to Federal Appeals Court Judge Jerry Smith in Texas, who requested the assurances after Obama’s comments on Monday.

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Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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