In it, but not of it. TPM DC

McConnell To Obama: 'Back Off' The Justices

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Newscom

Speaking in the Rose Garden Monday, Obama said overturning his law, or its key components, would amount to judicial activism, and predicted, "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."

Conservatives chomped. Of course the court overturns laws it deems unconstitutional -- Obama must be calling into question the legitimacy of the entire judicial branch.

Obama clarified his remarks Tuesday, by noting that to overturn the health care law would mean a return to a pre-New Deal status quo ante. But Republican leaders -- and, extraordinarily, a conservative appellate court panel -- continue to focus on his initial comments.

"The president crossed a dangerous line this week," read McConnell's prepared remarks. "And anyone who cares about liberty needs to call him out on it. The independence of the court must be defended."

There's a revealing irony to all this. Republicans have turned attacking the judiciary into a political sport over the years -- citing adverse rulings as evidence that activists judges are legislating from the bench. But McConnell says that won't happen this time if the court upholds the law.

"If the court upholds the law, I'll be disappointed. I'll disagree with it. But I'll respect its independence," McConnell's remarks read. "And then I'll continue to do everything I can to have this law repealed through the legislative channels that remain available.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."