WASHINGTON, April 5 (UPI) -- The courts' review of a law's constitutionally is "beyond dispute" but the executive branch has urged deference to acts of Congress, the top U.S. attorney said.
In a letter to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, Holder clarified its position on judicial review after President Obama suggested Monday it would be "unprecedented" for the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act, his signature healthcare reform law, The (Oklahoma City) Oklahoman reported.
"The power of the courts to review the constitutionality of legislation is beyond dispute," Holder wrote to the appeals court, which is hearing a separate challenge to the healthcare law.
"The longstanding, historical position of the United States regarding judicial review of the constitutionality of federal legislation has not changed," Holder wrote. "The department has not in this litigation, nor in any other litigation of which I am aware, ever asked this or any other court to reconsider or limit long-established precedent concerning judicial review of the constitutionality of federal legislation"
Holder also wrote that while recognizing the courts' judicial review authority, the executive branch has often urged courts "to respect the legislative judgments of Congress. … These principles of deference are fully applicable when Congress legislates in the commercial sphere."
Obama expanded his comments Tuesday to explain that the Supreme Court "is the final say on our Constitution and our laws" but because of that extraordinary position "the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly elected Legislature, our Congress. And so the burden is on those who would overturn a law like this."
On Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said during the daily media briefing, "The judicial precedent here is clear: That on matters of national economic significance -- and let's not forget that healthcare is, what, 15 percent of our economy -- that the precedent is overwhelmingly on the side of upholding the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act."
Carney said neither side was debating whether healthcare "is a matter of national economic significance" in the challenge before the Supreme Court.
In his letter to the 5th Circuit judges, Holder said, "The courts accord particular deference when evaluating the appropriateness of the means Congress has chosen to exercise its enumerated powers, including the Commerce Clause, to accomplish constitutional ends."
Judge Jerry Smith, appointed by President Reagan, demanded the letter during oral argument Tuesday on a case related to the healthcare law.