(CNN) - Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell directly attacked President Barack Obama on Thursday, tweaking the president over his controversial remarks about the Supreme Court.
"The president crossed a dangerous line this week. And anyone who cares about liberty needs to call him out on it," McConnell said in a speech at the Rotary Club of Lexington, according to prepared remarks.
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He continued: "Respectfully, I would suggest the president back off."
On Monday, Obama made headlines when he compared a potential Supreme Court overturning of the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in 2010, to the kind of "judicial activism" that conservative commentators oppose.
He went on to add that he firmly believed the health care law would be upheld and challenged the court not to take an "unprecedented" step of undoing the law.
The comments quickly caused a rouse among conservative leaders, who charged the president with being misleading and trying to intimidate the high court.
And a federal court this week ordered the Justice Department to explain whether the Obama administration believes federal courts have the power to strike down laws as unconstitutional, as granted by the Supreme Court's landmark 1803 ruling in Marbury v Madison.
McConnell, describing Obama's remarks as "troubling," accused the president of not respecting the Supreme Court and dismissing its power as a separate branch of government.
"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," McConnell said.
The minority leader said if the Supreme Court decides to uphold the health care law, he would disagree with the decision but he would still "respect" it, drawing a contrast to what he sees as Obama's disregard for the high court.
"The American people should be able to expect that their president will defend the independence of the court, not undermine it," he said.
On Wednesday, however, Obama dialed down his language in a speech at a media luncheon.
"The point I was making is that the Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws and all of us have to respect it," he said. "But it's precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly-elected legislature, our Congress."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney on Thursday further defended the president, describing questions over Obama’s reverence for the Supreme Court as “preposterous.”
“The president was not clearly understood by some people,” Carney said. “Because he is a law professor, he spoke in short hand.”
- CNN's Bill Mears and Tom Cohen contributed to this report.