There was a lot of discussion in the hallways of the Congress the day after the State of the Union Address about President Obama’s jab at the U.S. Supreme Court over a recent decision on campaign finance limits.
Video of Justice Samuel Alito appeared to show him verbally objecting to the President’s characterization of the High Court’s ruling, as Democrats and Republicans traded fire over that part of the President’s speech.
“I think we need to show them appropriate respect,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said of the Justices, six of whom came to the Capitol for the speech.
“Calling out the Supreme Court was a little over the top,” Cornyn told reporters.
Democrats meanwhile ripped Justice Alito, who seemed to grimace and say something to himself in response to the President.
“At least he didn’t do a Joe Wilson,” cracked Cornyn, referring to the South Carolina Republican Congressman from South Carolina, who went from unknown backbencher to controversial figure when he shouted “You lie!” at the President during a speech to a Joint Session in September.
None of my colleagues could remember any President using a State of the Union Address to call for action by the Supreme Court, or to denounce one of High Court’s ruling.
So, I reviewed every single State of the Union Address and Message that’s been sent to Congress or delivered in person by a President, and the answer is, such a shout out to the Supremes is rare, indeed.
In 1953, President Eisenhower urged Congress to act on powers for the Food and Drug Administration, after the Court found a law on food inspections to be unconstitutional.
In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to the Justices indirectly, as he complained about recent rulings that limited some of his New Deal banking initiatives.
Two months later, FDR started on what turned out to be his ill-fated “Court Packing” scheme, which was rejected by the Congress.
President Obama’s words were a bit more negative about a specific court ruling than almost any other President.
In 1922, President Harding asked Congress to approve a Constitutional Amendment that would ban child labor, after the Justices blocked certain laws in that arena.
So while Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) kept his hands folded this year, we’ll see if Justice Alito decides to show up next year, or not.