The Supreme Court is still the last bastion of defense of the U.S. Constitution. And with John Roberts at the helm, the court may find itself called upon repeatedly over the next few years:
The president’s agenda on healthcare and financial regulations sets the stage for a clash with the Supreme Court’s conservative majority.
By David G. Savage
Los Angeles Times
July 6, 2010
Reporting from Washington — The Supreme Court wrapped up its term last week after landmark decisions protecting the right to have a gun and the right of corporations to spend freely on elections. But the year’s most important moment may have come on the January evening when the justices gathered at the Capitol for President Obama’s State of the Union address.
They had no warning about what was coming.
Obama and his advisors had weighed how to respond to the court’s ruling the week before, which gave corporations the same free-spending rights as ordinary Americans. They saw the ruling as a rash, radical move to tilt the political system toward big business as they coped with the fallout from the Wall Street collapse.
Some advisors counseled caution, but the president opted to criticize the conservative justices in the uncomfortable spotlight of national television as Senate Democrats roared their approval.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. is still angered by what he saw as a highly partisan insult to the independent judiciary. The incident put a public spotlight on the deep divide between the Obama White House and the Roberts court, one that could have a profound effect in the years ahead.
The president and congressional Democrats have embarked on an ambitious drive to regulate corporations, banks, health insurers and the energy industry. But the high court, with Roberts increasingly in control, will have the final word on those regulatory laws.
Already, the healthcare overhaul law, Obama’s signal achievement, is under attack in the courts. Republican attorneys general from 20 states have sued, insisting the law and its mandate to buy health insurance exceed Congress’ power and trample on states’ rights.
Two weeks ago, a federal judge in New Orleans ruled Obama had overstepped his authority by ordering a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
On another front, the administration says it will soon go to court in Phoenix seeking to block Arizona’s controversial immigration law, which is due to take effect July 29. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer said Arizona would go to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to preserve the law.
It may be another year or two before a true challenge to the Obama agenda reaches the Supreme Court.
McConnell, the law professor, said the administration’s broad set of regulatory moves made a clash almost inevitable. “It does not mean the courts are being ‘political,’ ” he said. “It is the way the institutions are designed, to create checks and balances.”