Balance Of Powers 101

Last week’s oral arguments before the Supreme Court about the Affordable Care Act — and the questions from Justices that suggested skepticism about the law’s constitutionality — seem to have caught some people off guard and caused them to make some very odd statements about how our government works.

Today, for example, President Obama said:  “Ultimately, I am 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.”  He added:  “And I’d just remind conservative commentators that, for years, what we have heard is, the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism, or a lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.  Well, this is a good example, and I’m pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step.”

I’m confident that the President — who graduated from one of the country’s best law schools — can’t possibly believe those statements, because they reflect a profound misunderstanding of the balance of powers that exists under the Constitution.  For more than two centuries, it has been well established that the Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of whether a law violates the Constitution.  And, since a federal statute becomes a law only if it has passed both houses of Congress and been signed by the President, declarations of unconstitutionality necessarily will occur only after a “majority of a democratically elected Congress” — and often a “strong majority” at that — has approved the law.

Indeed, the whole idea of judicial review is that the democratically elected members of Congress and the President might be swayed by the popular passions of the day, and therefore only judges appointed for life who are removed from politics should determine whether a statute contravenes the Constitution.  To be sure, it’s not a power the Supreme Court has used routinely, but over the last two centuries the Court has not hesitated to strike down statutes that are found to be unconstitutional.  The Court’s power to do so therefore is, quite literally, not “unprecedented.”

Obviously, the President hopes the Court will rule that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and enforceable.  However, he does our system a disservice by suggesting that the Supreme Court would be overreaching if it decided to the contrary.  If the Supreme Court takes that step, it is simply exercising one of its constitutional powers — just as President Obama and Congress did in enacting the law in the first place.  That’s how our system is supposed to work.

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Back To The Back

One of our faithful Webner House readers asked me today for an update on my back.  The short answer is:  my back is better, thanks for asking.

After suffering through several agonizing days where I hoped my back would improve on its own, I went to the doctor.  Her examination led her to believe that it was simply a muscle strain, albeit a painful one — which is good news.  She prescribed a few days’ worth of steroids and an anti-inflammatory that I take daily.  I didn’t ask for any pain medication because I don’t like the loopy, lightheaded sensation that it often creates.  The steroids and anti-inflammatories have worked well.  Chalk me up as another satisfied example of the miracle of modern drug therapy!

The only real challenge for me is getting out of bed in the morning.  The automatic rollover and twist motion that I use to put my feet on the floor seems to tweak my lower back worse than any other kind of movement.  I’ve tried to be more cautious, but when you’ve still sleep-addled it’s hard to not engage in the same, routine movement that I’ve done every morning since childhood.

Weed Warrior

Yesterday, I just couldn’t take it anymore.  Ouchy back and all, I got down on my hands and knees to weed the front yard.

I don’t know if it was caused by our warmer than normal winter, or if our grass is just getting wearing out, or if our lawn care service changed the spraying schedule and deferred the weed killer application, but this spring we have been beset by a grotesque plague of weeds.  Dandelions, clover, and other ugly looking plants had sprung up everywhere, ruining the uniform, velvety green carpet all homeowners aspire to and making our yard look like a patchwork quilt of unsightliness.  It was offensive to look at, and I didn’t want the neighbors to think that we were letting our yard go to seed.

So I went out on weed patrol, with my paper bag and my weed control tools.  I know spraying is effective, but I think it’s best to get down close to the spot, get some dirt under your fingernails, and dig the weeds out roots and all.  I use some spoon-sized shovels to get under the weeds and work them out of the ground; dandelions, for example, come out with a satisfying pop.  And, because I’m using small shovel, the yard doesn’t end up looking like I’ve got a gopher problem.

I worked on the front and side yards for a few hours yesterday and left them looking moderately presentable.  Neighborhood pride is a powerful motivator.