McConnell to Obama: 'Back off'
April 5th, 2012
12:20 PM ET
2 years ago

McConnell to Obama: 'Back off'

(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.

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Filed under: Health care • Kentucky • Mitch McConnell • President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (70 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Pres. Obama's remarks were no different from remarks by previous presidents. Maybe Sen. McConnell needs to listen to GWB's remarks about activist judges. Or, maybe he needs to listen to Newt Gingrich confirm that he would send US Marshals "to go after activist judges on the Supreme Court" to have them "explain their actions to The People."

    April 5, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  2. RobertFTL

    How about Republicans respecting our president? I've never seen such disrespect for a sitting president. After Citizens United ruling, President Obama had every right for his comments.

    April 5, 2012 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. Data Driven

    Oh puh-leeze. Shut up, McDonnell. If I had a dime for each time some GOP office-holder, from House scrub to President of the United States, opined about how the Supremes should rule, and even what type of Justices should be on the Court, I'd be part of the 1%.

    Include conservative commentators' remarks on this subject, and I'd have Saudi Prince-type money.

    April 5, 2012 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  4. Cody

    Respectfully Mitch McConnell can read the first amendment and deal with it.

    April 5, 2012 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  5. iTALIAN NONNO

    Don't back off for nothing Mr. President,.. the majority of decent American people have your back,.. keep telling it like it is. McConnell should be telling the loud mouths like Limbaugh, Hannity and the Ingrahms to back off.

    April 5, 2012 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  6. Bonnie

    Mr. McConnell, is there some reason you didn't tell Newt to back off?

    April 5, 2012 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  7. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Who on Earth does this moron from Kentucky think he is? For a petty senate minority leader, McConnell is two slices of bread short of being a crap sandwich.

    April 5, 2012 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. Ozzie

    Go home, Mitch. You just hate this President. You have the moral credibilty of the U.S. Catholic Bishops.

    April 5, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Strip search McConnell, he sounds dangerous.

    April 5, 2012 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  10. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Threatening our president who was elected by 67 million more votes than McConnell, the supreme court, and any other Taliban GOP congressman.

    April 5, 2012 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  11. Foreverwar

    Since Darth Cheney got his first heart installed, maybe it also would be possible for McConnell himself to find a lip donor.

    April 5, 2012 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Strategic Bob

    Palladin,

    You have that right, Sir. Well said!

    April 5, 2012 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Mikey

    While I do not agree with the comment the President made about the SCOTUS setting precedent if they overturn this law (notwithstanding the fact that we have a right-wing activist court, which is not what the framers ever intended), I take anything McConnell says about the President with a grain of salt. McConnell's stated NUMBER ONE PRIORITY is to make our President "a one-term" President. McConnell cares more about partisan politics than he cares about the people he was elected to serve. SHAME ON MCCONNELL !!!

    April 5, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  14. Dave

    I will never forget our great Prez looking STRAIGHT AT the Surpreme Court in The State of The Union Speech about how F--ed up their decision was for UNLIMITED $$$$$ from corporations to Candidates & no need for DISCLOSURE. Nice job Scalia, Roberts & Kennedy. That gave this Country to SPECIAL INTREST AROUND THE GLOBE, yea not just America!!!

    April 5, 2012 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  15. RN

    Has he been in coma?
    GWB and Newt and a lot of other GOP "leaders" have had very definite ideas what the justices need to do – but Bush signed a number of bills and then publicly stated when he signed those bills that he had no intention of funding parts of the bills he did not agree with or he would not seek enforcement of provisions he did not like.
    Bush showed no respect for his own duties to enforce the laws passed by Congress and he showed no respect for the people those laws were meant to protect.
    This fossil needs to retire – soon.

    April 5, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  16. Dave

    Whats da matter old rich guy in bed with big oil Mitch? You want some cheese with that whine????

    April 5, 2012 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  17. Woman In California

    McConnell has the nerve to lecture our president on respect? Now, that's something to take note of when it was he who openly stated his number one goal was to make Obama a "one term president". Where was the "respect" then?

    To many of us this healthcare law is extremely important and all the president was trying to do is ask the Supreme Court to be fair and not rule based on their conservative prejudices. McConnell enjoys a fully paid healthcare plan and all the other lucrative benefits allowed and he wants the rest of us to just sit back and lose ours. These people are beyond hypocritical and ignorant and IF they want to take away my benefits-the American people should be able to strip away their benefits as well. What a group of haters they are and I hope all of them reap what they sow.

    April 5, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  18. Randy, San Francisco

    McConnell seems to have forgotten that the GOP had similar compaints about the courts when rulings didn't go their way.

    April 5, 2012 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  19. Romney is not My Hero

    Are you sure he didn't say "Back off BOY" - That's the literal translation in the bigotry language dictionary. Can't have that colored person trying to tell him what to do. I bet he went straight out to one of those "meetings" wearing his white hood and dress with pride.

    I'm so glad to be an American. I can see just how much this country has moved forward from racism to equality. NOT!

    OBAMA 2012!

    April 5, 2012 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  20. Myviewis

    Let's be honest, most Democrats are anti-law, anti-courts, most have little or no respect for judges so it is no surprise that when President Obama makes a comment of the Supreme Court that undermines it that Democrats would agree with his comment. Yeah, later he changed it and tried to explain it because he reflected on how bad such a comment is for a president to make of his own Supreme Court. Based on most of the Democrats I know, Democrats would be happy if our country had no court system at all or military or police force.

    April 5, 2012 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  21. Dan

    "I would suggest the president back off"............Said by millions and millions of Americans and come election time these words will turn into action when the American people vote and make Obama a one term president.

    April 5, 2012 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  22. Ms Republican

    Mr. McConnell... I am a white, over 50, fellow Kentuckian and Republican. Stop playing games, GET TO WORK, and Get over yourself!
    From the Beginning of OUR President’s term you have bashed him, or should I say” had a hard *n for the man” (excuse my French) determined to destroy him.
    I believe if you RESPECTED your own POSITION – working for the people of Kentucky, you would show at some respect to the institution of which we voted you to, including the office of President.
    You can say what you want, do what you want because you’re one of the 1%–the only True supporters you have here in the Commonwealth are those making over $250,000/yr;
    Get among your constituents or should "common folks" they see your BS.

    April 5, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  23. cali girl

    No one is listening you old windbag. Go do something that helps the American people. Oh, wait, I forgot, you come from the party of No.

    April 5, 2012 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  24. Dominican mama 4 Obama (the real one)

    The President did NOTHING dangerous.
    The President has every right to express his opinion.

    April 5, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  25. Sniffit

    Obama's innocuous and accurate comments bother GOPers/Teatrolls, who somehow had absolutely no problem with Netwered publicly daydreaming about arresting judges he feels are too liberal if he became POTUS. I do believe this is a "shove a sock in it" moment for them.

    April 5, 2012 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
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