Authors: Joshua Cohan
(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Eric Holder has submitted to a federal appeals court judge three pages of single-spaced legal talk explaining President Obama’s recent statements about the Supreme Court’s authority to overturn laws.
Actually, Holder’s letter to Judge Jerry Smith is two-and-a-half pages, with about half of the first page accounting for letterhead and recipients. But it is single-spaced, as Smith, an appeals court judge for the federal 5th District, requested.
This week, Obama said at a news conference that the Supreme Court would be acting in an “unprecedented” way if it overturned his signature health care law, which both Republicans and the White House refer to as “Obamacare.” The White House has said that Obama was arguing that the high court should consider the economic implications of striking down such a massive law, and it has said Obama wasn’t trying to intimidate the court.
Outraged by Obama’s comments, which critics have said are an attempt to intimidate the justices, Smith used a hearing in appeals court concerning how doctor-owned hospitals are treated under the health reform law to demand that Holder explain Obama’s comments and the government’s view on courts’ rights to overturn laws. Smith specifically asked for three pages, single-spaced, making specific reference to Obama’s comments.
The brief submitted by Holder is technical in nature, but promises, “At no point has the government suggested that the Court would lack authority to review plaintiffs’ constitutional claims if the Court were to conclude that jurisdiction exists.”
Republicans have repeatedly referred to Obama’s comments as a form of court bullying. Thursday in Kentucky, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Respectfully, I would suggest the President back off. Let the Court do its work. Let our system work the way it was intended. The stability of our system and our laws and our very government depends on it. And the duties of the Presidency demand it.”
But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Thursday the president’s intention was not to intimidate, but make an historical point.
“Of course he was referring to the fact that it would be unprecedented in the modern era of the Supreme Court, since the New Deal era, for the Supreme Court to overturn legislation passed by Congress designed to regulate and deal with a matter of national economic importance, like our health care system. That is a fact,” Carney told reporters.
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