While state legislatures and school boards around the country scramble to pass anti-bullying statutes, President Barack Obama is doing his utmost to bully the United States Supreme Court into ruling in his favor, specifically on the Affordable Health Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.
While this may sound like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt circa 1937, it is President Obama, circa today.
First, Obama unleashed a broadside against the justices during his 2010 State of the Union address for their ruling on a campaign finance case known as Citizens United. With the justices seated directly in front of him, Obama publicly scolded the court for its decision-making. It was an unusual step for a lawyer-president to take the high court to the legal woodshed during a State of the Union address.
Second, still desirous of blurring the lines of constitutional demarcation between the executive and judicial branches of government, in April, Obama once again took aim at the Supreme Court. In an encore performance at a press conference, Obama said it would be an “unprecedented, extraordinary” step for the Court to rule against his health care law. The former law professor must have forgotten his first day of law school, when Marbury v. Madison and the concept of judicial review were discussed. He must have also forgotten that in 2008, the Supreme Court invalidated an act that suspended habeas for Guantanamo detainees. Obama favored the court’s outcome in that case, applauding the court’s “unprecedented” overruling of a federal statute at that time.
Third, Obama has directed his administration to file papers claiming that if the Supreme Court were to rule against his health care plan, it would risk the “extraordinary disruption” of Medicare — never mind that Medicare has been chugging along for its entire existence without the benefit of the Affordable Health Care Act.
But the reason the president and his allies on the left are so good at bullying and intimidating members of our highest court may be because they are so bad at using the powers that have been given them.
Obama and the advocates of government-run health care had before them a tried, true and constitutional way in which to pay for the cost of all their proposed changes to health care — it is called the power to tax. The power of taxation is something that Americans are all too familiar with after this April’s tax filings.
The Obama administration and its allies, recognizing that their legal arguments are flimsy at best, are now attempting to conflate health care policy with the Constitution.
If health care reforms are needed — and they are — then the proper course of action is to arrive at a consensus, pass legislation in the appropriate committees of Congress, appropriate the funding and avoid violating the Constitution.
But Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid did not have the votes to impose a tax increase to pay the staggering costs of a government-run health care bureaucracy. They knew that Americans would overwhelmingly reject a tax hike to pay for this massive government takeover of our health care system.
So, they decided to pursue a risky scheme, an unconstitutional scheme that goes beyond the established powers of Congress. This tax head fake, otherwise known as a mandate, would force Americans to do what Congress was unwilling to do: make individuals and businesses purchase a product called health care insurance and impose stiff fines upon both if they refuse to do so.
In sum, Obama and the leaders in Congress did not have the votes to raise the taxes to pay for this expansion of government. Now, Obama is worried that he does not have the votes on the Supreme Court. So he has decided to engage in a campaign of bullying, intimidation and vilification.
Al Gore is quoted as saying, “When you have the facts, argue the facts. When you have the law, argue the law. When you have neither, holler.” And that is just what Obama has been doing, hollering at the justices in the hope that his hollering will trump a reasoned look at the facts, the law and the Constitution.
Overturning laws passed by the Congress and signed by the president is, in fact, precisely what prompted FDR’s ill-fated plan to stack the court. That court-packing plan stands as one of the uglier blots on the record of our longest-serving U.S. president.
History will not view any more kindly the court-bullying engaged in today by Obama.
Soon the Supreme Court will rule on the ill-conceived and unconstitutional mandate. We will learn whether the Constitution prevails. But let’s let the court decide.
Written by Bill Schuette for Detroit News, June 12, 2012.
Bill Schuette is attorney general for the State of Michigan.
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