President Obama is a former president of the Harvard Law Review and famously taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. But did he somehow not teach the historic case of Marbury v. Madison?
That's a fair question after Mr. Obama's astonishing remarks on Monday at the White House when he ruminated for the first time in public on the Supreme Court's recent ObamaCare deliberations. "I'm confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress," he declared. What Obama fails to mention is that the 'strong majority' was congressional democrats only. Not a single Republican representaive voted for this bureaucratic monstrosity,
Presidents are paid to be confident about their own laws, but what's up with that "unprecedented"? In Marbury in 1803, Chief Justice John Marshall laid down the doctrine of judicial review. In the 209 years since, the Supreme Court has invalidated part or all of countless laws on grounds that they violated the Constitution. All of those laws were passed by a "democratically elected" legislature of some kind, either Congress or in one of the states. And no doubt many of them were passed by "strong" majorities. Furthermore, there have been 153 case in which the Supreme court overtuned unconstitutional legislation, so this 'unprecedented' claim by Obama is false,
As it happens, probably stronger majorities than passed the Affordable Care Act. Readers may recall that the law was dragooned through a reluctant Senate without a single GOP vote and barely the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster. Despite a huge Democratic majority in the House, it passed by only 219-212.
One reason the law may be overturned is because it was rushed through Congress without a standard "severability" clause that says that the rest of the law stands if one part is judged unconstitutional. Congress jammed it into law because it became ever more unpopular the more the public looked at it. The law is even less popular today than it was on the day it passed in 2010.
Mr. Obama's remarks suggest he is joining others on the left in warning the Justices that they will pay a political price if they dare to overturn even part of the law. As he runs for re-election, Mr. Obama's inner community organizer seems to be winning out over the law professor.