US PRESIDENT Barack Obama has come under fire from senior Republicans, lawyers and legal scholars for "bullying" the US Supreme Court by warning it against overturning his controversial healthcare reforms.
He said earlier this week that the court would be taking an "unprecedented, extraordinary step" if it struck down the law, which forces all Americans to buy private health insurance or face fines.
Mr Obama said the Supreme Court's "unelected" justices, whose sceptical questioning during hearings last week led experts to predict that the law was doomed, would be rejecting the will of a "democratically elected Congress".
The remarks prompted sharp responses from critics, who accused Mr Obama, a constitutional-law professor, of ignoring 200 years of legal precedent.
Nikki Haley, the governor of South Carolina, one of 27 states suing the administration over the reforms, accused him of "bullying the Supreme Court".
Opponents of 'ObamaCare' argue that it is unconstitutional for the government to force people to buy things. The court is weighing this against the administration's claim that it is legal under the constitution's "commerce clause", which allows Congress to regulate interstate trade.
The Justice Department was forced yesterday to submit a letter to a Texas judge in a separate ObamaCare lawsuit, who demanded to know whether the president accepted that the courts had the authority to overturn laws which they found to be unconstitutional. The attorney general, Eric Holder, confirmed that the administration "respects the decisions made by the courts since Marbury v Madison", an 1803 case that established the principle of judicial review.
Randy Barnett, a constitutional-law professor at Georgetown University, said Mr Obama's remarks were a "gross mischaracterisation of the relationship of the courts to Congress".
Even Laurence Tribe, a professor who mentored Mr Obama at Harvard Law School, said: "Presidents should generally refrain from commenting on pending cases."
Some experts compared Mr Obama's move to President Roosevelt's 1937 assault on the Supreme Court after it had rejected several components of his New Deal programme.
While Mr Obama claims to be "confident" that the court will uphold the law, many experts expect his signature legislative achievement to be left in tatters.
Mr Obama himself pulled back from his original statement during a later speech. "The Supreme Court is the final say on our Constitution and our laws and all of us have to respect it," he said. However, he added: "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." (© Daily Telegraph, London)