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

    Maybe we should play back McConnell's own "activist" remarks about Pres. Obama when the president selected Sotomayor for the bench.

    April 5, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  2. Logic N LA

    And when is McConnell goingto learn respect for the office of the President? That man was barely in office and he was callignfor his defeat, calling him names and while we're at it, he too has made comments about judges.
    So Senator- speak as you live.

    April 5, 2012 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    Mitch, how about you calling out your GOP buddies for the most dishonest campaign our country has ever seen.
    Saying things you know to be untrue is lying.

    April 5, 2012 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  4. Paul1st

    With Justice Scalia commenting that the only the Supreme Court can kill the entire law since there are not enough votes in Congress to override a veto of a repeal bill, it sounds more like McConnell is colluding with Scalia to achieve a political purpose. So much for checks and balances, and the integrity of the Supreme Court.

    April 5, 2012 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  5. alleygator

    Three words: "Impeach Earl Warren."

    April 5, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  6. Free to Speak My Mind

    Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Captain Gridlock himself) does not believe the President of the United States should have an opinion about something he cares about. Hmmmmm, I smell a rat.

    What gives Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell the impression that he can tell a fellow American, no less, the President of the US not to weigh in on an issue as serious as health care law?

    April 5, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  7. mk1

    Republicans love to have it both ways. Former GOP presidents have criticized the high court on numerous occasions and have never been held to account by other GOPers. Newt Gingrich even wants to haul them off and be arrested if they rule opposed to his point of view. Typical hypocrites. Pathetic really.

    April 5, 2012 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  8. Russ in Md

    @Mikey: How can you say "we have a right-wing activist court". 4 of the justices were appointed by a democrat and 5 were appointed by a republican president and one of those justices (Justice Kennedy) is a moderate. That sounds pretty even to me.

    April 5, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  9. Independent Voters

    McConnell you will not be elected your next term so back off our president. President Obama dont be scare of these repup thugs.

    April 5, 2012 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  10. Tony Z

    So did McConnell forget that the judge shook his head during the State of the Union in reference to Citizen United. Lets go further the President is lobbying the Supreme Court- McConnell are you against being lobbied. Remember you wanted him to be a "One-term President"

    April 5, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  11. harvey 60

    Tweedle-Dum, the little gerbil, says nothing about the last forty-odd years of Republican presidential candidates running on an anti-aabortion platform and publicly stating that any potential Supreme Court Justice must have like-minded views. What have you done about healthcare in your 27 years in the Senate? Keep those tobacco subsidies going, Mitch, almost 50 years after the Surgeon General's report and you're still covering for the Merchants of Death.

    April 5, 2012 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  12. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Obama has said and done many things that make people question whether he takes his oath of office seriously. The oath is to THE CONSTITUTION but progressives truly don't believe in the words in which it is written. They want to replace those words with their interpretation of those words. We have all seen in here that progressives are famous for twisting words into nonsense to confuse people because he truth is not their friend.

    Example, "tax expenditure". A tax expenditure is when the government spends tax money on providing services but the progressives have twisted this into meaning "taxpayer money that was earned by hard working citizens but which the government grudging deems you are keeping but which should be theirs". The implication is that the government owns your paycheck FIRST and will let you keep whatever IT deems it does not want to take. And when you have a federal government that grows with no bounds, your entire paycheck becomes fair game.

    April 5, 2012 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  13. Niko_in_Richmond

    So, I guess that we are seeing that it is okay for the Republicans in Congress to attack the President (and members of the Executive branch) and the Court, but it's not okay for the president to come out and say that the Supreme Court should uphold his signature legislation in forceful terms. The childish behavior of some in our government is really getting out of hand. The funny thing is that the same people who are criticizing the president for making his comment are supporting the Marine who stated that he would not obey orders given by the president and went so far as to call the president the country's "economy enemy, religious enemy, the domestic enemy" on the grounds that the Marine was exercising his freedom of speech. Well, if the Marine can openly criticize his commanding officer, why cannot one member of the federal government criticize the members of a co-equal branch of government? Oh, that's right!! It's okay if the Republicans do it, but it's off-limits to a president who just so happens to be a Democrat.

    April 5, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  14. Casey

    I am confused...it must be that our president is so incredibly intelligent that he must always correct wat he initially said in order that we less intelligent people understand him. And he must be right becasue I always realize with the second telling that I totally missed understanding the first telling. Guess, it isn't worth listening to what he has to say until he resays it so I can understand.

    April 5, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  15. mm

    McConnell, YOU back off......specifically all the back to the rock you climbed out from under.

    April 5, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  16. coy4one

    Like I am going to get excited about a lame-duck GOP Congressional body of whom devotes their time to press coverage and does hardly anything good in the House or Senate. This has been the WORST GOP leadership in the history of this nation. Regardless of what the President says or does, at least he is fighting for change, whereby the GOP only criticizes without putting up anything better to consider. Anyone who votes Republican in the next election will be in the minority for sure....and, I voted Republican for the past 36 years, but NO MORE!!

    April 5, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  17. jake1969

    Here we go again...making up nonsense as they go. It's the Republicans who for YEARS have railed against the courts at all levels and called time and time again for "reigning in the courts." Obama basically just used their argument. Of course, 2 wrongs don't make a right...I don't think either party should disrespect the courts...but, this coming from McConnell is kind of absurd. Republicans have no basis to criticize...

    Is it just me, or is it getting sooooo old that both parties do the same things, and constantly criticize each other for doing those same things?!? It's comical almost. They look like kids. And I'm still amazed how often I find either lefties or right wingers who can't see it. Partisanship is so trivial.

    April 5, 2012 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  18. American

    Respectfully, I would say for Sen. McConnell to please follow his own words & quit being so hypocritical in his indignation.

    It is a fact that McConnell & his NRSC recently created a website calling out "activist judges"...the very point that was being made this week.

    Not to mention, Sen. McConnell said nothing against President Bush when he spoke against judicial activism. Unfortunately the same ol' double standard of McConnell's politics.

    April 5, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  19. ART

    Why doesn't this old fool retire already and stop embarrassing himself

    April 5, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  20. kevin

    Respect the courts because we respect liberty!? The same court that has allowed the rich to buy our elections, while offering up traffic offenders for strip searches? The same court that's upheld the tapping our phones without cause? That court? Yeah...good luck on that one. I know the GOP keeps talking about liberty as if they invented it, but the facts belie their real intentions.

    April 5, 2012 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  21. girish

    It is a shameful for USA if polics plays roll deciding infavour/against affordable care act .Mitch macconel has only aim to to make president Obama for one term .You know , you worked against the interst of people and you will see the results in next elections including senate , congress and state

    April 5, 2012 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  22. Mark2

    Go McDonnell! Stand up for personal liberty. Romney 2012!

    April 5, 2012 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  23. Fair is Fair

    "Former GOP presidents have criticized the high court on numerous occasions and have never been held to account by other GOPers."
    ------
    That is true – they have. Can you provide an example of when they've ever done so preemptively – meaning BEFORE a pending decision was made?

    April 5, 2012 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  24. Anonymous

    Why is it when the POTUS defends his position against attacks from the right , he needs to back off or back down or just shut up . Seems to me he is doing just what the constitution allows all us us to do! The Prez just doing what we all have the right to do .....so why is it, that the GOP wants it to be okay for them , but not for the President of the US!
    Sad state of affairs we have in out Congress now days !

    April 5, 2012 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Claudia, Phoenix, AZ

    McConnell and the GOP a bunch of cowards who wouldn't tell Limbaugh to back off of his remarks about women because they respect Limbaugh but have proven to have no respect for our President.

    April 5, 2012 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
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