We are often reminded that President Obama is the smartest man ever to occupy the White House. That’s how Prof. Michael Beschloss, presidential historian, described him. Of course, Mr. Obama was editor of Harvard Law Review. Most of all, we are informed regularly that Barack Obama taught constitutional law at University of Chicago. That’s no mean accomplishment.
So, it’s really curious how Professor Obama defines constitutional issues.
Last week, he told a Rose Garden audience that the U.S. Supreme Court would be engaging in “judicial activism” if it rules his health care takeover unconstitutional.
That’s because, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed by what Mr. Obama calls a “strong majority” of elected Members of Congress.
Actually, there were a critical few members of that U.S. Senate who were not elected. Sen. Roland Burris of Illinois (D) was then temporarily occupying the seat Sen. Obama had vacated. Burris was put in that seat by Illinois’ Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) who is now on his way to prison for corruption related to that appointment. Sen. Ted Kaufman of Delaware (D) was appointed, not elected, to fill Joe Biden’s seat, as he stepped into the vice presidential chair. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York (D) was appointed, not elected, to fill the seat of Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. Gillibrand was appointed by New York’s Gov. David Patterson (D). Then, there was Colorado’s Sen. Michael Bennet (D), who was appointed to serve the unexpired term of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar (D).
I have not yet consulted the Senate historian, but since this landmark legislation was passed by the narrowest of partisan majorities—with not a single Republican voting for it—and since at least four of the must-have votes came from appointed U.S. Senators—it sure seems odd to characterize the legislation has having been passed by a “strong majority” of elected representatives of the people.
In the House of Representatives, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi promised to go down the chimney, up through the sewers, and around the bend, if necessary, to jam the health care bill through. But jam it she did. That is why the then-Speaker is not the now-Speaker. Even so, the vote in the House was squeakingly close: 219-212.
Some “strong majority.”
Now, suppose Prof. Obama, you could pass a bill through a Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 342-67, with 219 Republicans and 120 Democrats backing it? Suppose, further, that you got your legislation through the Democratic Senate on a vote of 85-14, with all Republicans backing it and only 14 Democrats opposed? Suppose, further, that that bill had been signed in 1996 by a Democratic president.