WASHINGTON — President Obama issued a rare, direct challenge Monday to the Supreme Court to uphold his historic health care overhaul, weighing in with a vigorous political appeal for judicial restraint. He warned that overturning the law would hurt millions of Americans and amount to overreach by the “unelected’’ court.
Obama predicted that a majority of justices would uphold the law when the ruling is announced in June. But the president, himself a former law professor, seemed intent on swaying uncertain views in the meantime, both in the court of public opinion and in the minds of the justices, about not overstepping the high court’s bounds.
“Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress,’’ Obama said at a Rose Garden news conference.
The majority he referenced was not quite that strong; Congress approved the law two years ago in hard-fought party-line votes after a divisive national debate. Republican presidential contenders say they will make sure it is repealed if the Supreme Court does not throw it out first.
For a president to weigh in so forcefully about a case currently under deliberation by the Supreme Court is unusual, and it speaks to the stakes at hand.
The law is the signature domestic achievement of Obama’s term and already a prominent source of debate in the presidential campaign. The Supreme Court will decide whether to strike down part or all of the law, including its centerpiece requirement that nearly all Americans carry insurance or pay a penalty.
Poll finds women’s backing helps Obama pass Romney
Women have propelled President Obama to a widening lead over Republican front-runner Mitt Romney in a dozen swing states, according to a poll released Monday.
The USA Today/Gallup Poll found Obama now enjoys a 9-point advantage over Romney, 51 percent to 42 percent. A month ago, the same poll showed the former Massachusetts governor with a 2-point edge over the president.
Much of Obama’s surge could be attributed to a widening gender gap. Women support Obama over Romney, 54 percent to 36 percent, the poll found. Romney’s narrow, 48-47 lead among men is within the poll’s margin of error.
The disparity between the sexes was even more pronounced when coupled with age. More than 60 percent of women under 50 support Obama, while only 30 percent said they would vote for Romney. Men over 50 back Romney, 56-38.
Male and female candidate preferences mirrored their prioritization of campaign issues. The poll found men identified the federal deficit and national debt as the campaign’s number one issue. Romney is running largely on his reputation as a fiscally savvy turnaround artist.
Women said health care is the most important issue in the campaign. Obama in 2010 led passage of a health care overhaul that Romney has vowed to repeal if elected. The Supreme Court is to rule on the constitutionality of the law in June.
Romney sidetracks tough Mormon question
GREEN BAY, Wis. - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney faced a tough question about his Mormon faith while campaigning for Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary.
A Ron Paul supporter, Bret Hatch, 28, asked Romney whether he agreed with a passage from the Book of Mormon that describes a cursing of people with a “skin of blackness.’’
Romney’s staff took away the microphone before the Green Bay man could read the passage.
“I’m sorry, we’re just not going to have a discussion about religion in my view, but if you have a question I’ll be happy to answer your question,’’ Romney said Monday.
Hatch then asked whether Romney thought it was a sin for interracial couples to have children.
“No. Next question,’’ Romney responded curtly.
Hatch was citing verses from Nephi in the Book of Mormon which describes a cursing of people with a “skin of blackness.’’
The verse is often cited by critics who accuse the Church of Latter-day Saints of racism and consider Mormon teachings heretical. Some Mormons may also have heard the verses in their community as an explanation of why men of African descent had been banned from the church’s priesthood until 1978.
Church leaders have said that interpretation is inaccurate. The church issued a statement from its offices in Utah denouncing racism and warning against what it called speculation about the origins of the prohibition.
Romney often talks about the decade he spent as a volunteer Mormon pastor in the Boston area before becoming governor of Massachusetts.
Not long after Hatch’s question, Romney reflected on that experience.
“This gentleman wanted to talk about the doctrines of my religion,’’ Romney said, noting that his service as a pastor helped him connect with people on a very personal basis. “I’ll talk about the practices of my faith.’’ASSOCIATED PRESS