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Holder answers judge, defending both judiciary and Obama health care remarks

Attorney General Eric Holder affirmed Thursday that the judiciary has power to review laws of the land, in reply to a US judge who had taken umbrage at an Obama comment questioning judicial review of his health care law. Obama's remark was consistent with that principle, Holder added.

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Nonetheless, the Fifth Circuit panel instructed a government lawyer to produce an explanation of the Justice Department’s position on the issue.

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“The Supreme Court has often acknowledged the appropriateness of reliance on the political branches’ policy choices and judgments,” Holder wrote to the panel.

The high court traditionally “accords great weight to the decisions of Congress,” Holder said, “in part because the Congress is a coequal branch of government whose members take the same oath [judges] do to uphold the Constitution of the United States.”

Holder said principles of deference fully apply when Congress legislates under its authority to regulate national commerce. “The courts accord particular deference when evaluating the appropriateness of the means Congress has chosen to exercise its enumerated powers, including the Commerce Clause,” he said.

Holder’s letter was delivered a few hours after Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky told the Rotary Club in Lexington, Ky., that Obama’s comments “should trouble every American” and that his comments demand an explanation from the White House.

“The president crossed a dangerous line this week. And anyone who cares about liberty needs to call him out on it,” Senator McConnell said.

“Apparently, President Obama didn’t like the tenor of some of the questions the justices asked about the health-care law during last week’s hearings,” McConnell said.

“The president did something that as far as I know is completely unprecedented: He not only tried to publicly pressure the court into deciding a pending case in the way he wants it decided; he also questioned its very authority under the Constitution,” the senator said.

McConnell said he had no idea how the high court might decide the health-care case. If the court upholds the law, he said, he would be disappointed and would work to repeal it through legislative channels. But McConnell said he would respect the independence of the judiciary.

“Here’s something I won’t do: I won’t mount a political campaign to delegitimize the court in the way some in Congress have been urging this president to do, and in the way he started to do earlier this week,” McConnell said.

“The American people should be able to expect that their president will defend the independence of the court,” he said, “not undermine it.”

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