WASHINGTON â€”Â President ObamaÂ declared Monday that he was confident theÂ Supreme CourtÂ would uphold hisÂ health care law, saying it would be an â€œunprecedented, extraordinaryâ€ step to overturn legislation passed by the â€œstrong majority of a democratically elected Congress.â€
In his first public comments sinceÂ court questioningÂ last week suggested that it might find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, Mr. Obama offered both a robust defense of the law and a barbed warning to justices thinking of striking it down.
â€œFor years what weâ€™ve heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or the lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law,â€ Mr. Obama said after meeting at the White House with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.
â€œWell, thereâ€™s a good example,â€ he continued, â€œand Iâ€™m pretty confident that this court will recognize that, and not take that step.â€
During three days of Supreme Court hearings on the case last week, the aggressive tenor of questions from several justices suggested that the lawâ€™s central provision â€” the individual mandate â€” was in jeopardy. Some justices appeared to be looking for practical solutions if they invalidated all or parts of the law.
A ruling is expected in June, which would thrust the health care case into the thick of the presidential campaign. Mr. Obama, appearing to recognize that the law could be struck down, extolled its practical benefits and framed a case that could be used against the Supreme Court in an election-year debate.
The lawâ€™s constitutionality, the president said, had been affirmed by legal scholars across the political spectrum, as well as by two conservative appeals court judges. It was passed by the House, 219 to 212, largely along party lines.
Mr. Obama said the legislation had brought affordable health care to 2.5 million young people, easing the burden on their parents, and had reduced the cost of prescription drugs for millions of older people.
â€œThis is not an abstract argument,â€ he said. â€œPeopleâ€™s lives are affected by the lack of availability of health care, the unaffordability of health care, or their inability to get health care because of preexisting conditions.â€