Reporters hit president’s ‘unprecedented’ comment on Obamacare ruling

'That’s a strong majority, 219-212?'


President Obama’s argument that for the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act would be an “extraordinary, unprecedented step” took heat from reporters Wednesday at a press briefing with White House press secretary Jay Carney.

CBS News reporter Norah O’Donnell pressed Carney after he attempted to say Obama’s later clarification–that it would be unprecedented for a law involving the commerce clause–was apparent Monday:

ED HENRY: In his original comments he did not draw out that caveat. He just said the whole thing would be unprecedented.

JAY CARNEY: That’s not what he said, Ed, and that’s certainly not what he meant. It was clear to most folks who observe this and understand is at issue here.

NORAH O’DONNELL: Jay, that’s not true. The president said on Monday: “It would an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” It took him until yesterday to talk about the commerce clause and on an economic issue—there are two instances in the past 80 years where the precedent, where the Supreme Court has overturned stuff—U.S. vs. Lopez and U.S. vs. Morrison. These are very specific legal issues. It’s not evident to everybody.

CARNEY: Well, it may not be evident to you. It is clear that the president was talking about matters like this that involve the commerce clause.

Later, Fox News reporter Ed Henry took up the other portion of the president’s remarks, challenging Carney on the president’s assertion that “a strong majority of a democratically-elected Congress” passed Obamacare.

CARNEY: In its history under rulings on matters under the commerce clause.

HENRY: On what Norah quoted about the president saying Monday, “A strong majority of democratically-elected Congress.” As you know, the House passed the health care bill 219-212; the Senate passed—

CARNEY: Yeah, yeah.

HENRY: Well, it’s a fact.

CARNEY: Here we go.

HENRY: Here we go with a fact, imagine that. It was not a strong majority. The Republicans just pushed through the Ryan budget with a strong majority—you guys would not call that a strong majority, would you?

CARNEY: No. But here’s the environment that we live in, Ed. In order for a budget agreement to become law, right? The Republicans don’t control both the executive branch and the legislative branch, and the Democrats don’t control both. In order for the absolute necessity of dealing with our debt and deficit challenges, we need a bipartisan compromise. The only path, as evident to anyone who thinks about this matter, the only path, is a balanced approach. Republicans in the House know that; Democrats in the Senate know that; the president knows that, that’s why he’s embraced a balanced approach.

HENRY: Wait, back up here. 219-212—that’s a strong majority, you’re saying, factually?

CARNEY: You’re talking about apples and oranges here.

HENRY: No, we’re talking [unclear].

CARNEY: That passed—

HENRY: That’s a strong majority, 219-212?

CARNEY: That passed—Ed, that passed Congress and was signed into law. You know that there is no way to—look, you’re making the president’s point. You know there is no way to achieve a balanced approach with significant deficit and debt reduction without a balanced approach. You know that. It’s not going to happen right now.

HENRY: We’re talking about health care.

CARNEY: You’re absolutely correct, as some hope happens, if someone else occupies the Oval Office next year and Republicans control Congress, that the Ryan Republican budget could well become law. That’s exactly what the president was talking about yesterday. This is not a theoretical debate.