WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama said Monday he was confident the Supreme Court would uphold his health care law, saying it would be an "unprecedented, extraordinary" step to overturn legislation passed by the "strong majority of a democratically elected Congress."
In his first public comments since court questioning last week suggested that it might find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional, Obama offered both a robust defense of the law and a barbed warning to justices thinking of striking it down.
"For years what we've heard is the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or the lack of judicial restraint, that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law," Obama said after meeting at the White House with the leaders of Mexico and Canada.
"Well, there's a good example," he continued, "and I'm pretty confident that this court will recognize that and not take that step."
During three days of Supreme Court hearings on the case last week, the aggressive tenor of questions from several justices suggested that the law's central provision — the individual mandate — was in jeopardy. Some justices appeared to be looking for practical solutions if they invalidated all or parts of the law.
A ruling is expected in June, which would thrust the health care case into the thick of the presidential campaign.
Obama appeared in the Rose Garden flanked by President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada. Obama's response on health care overshadowed a news conference that touched on trade ties between the United States, Mexico and Canada, and U.S. efforts to help Mexico combat drug-related violence.
Obama said the United States needed to help Mexico both as a good neighbor and out of self-interest. Rampant drug-related violence south of the border, he said, could have a "spillover effect" on Americans living in or visiting Mexico.
Calderon blamed much of the violence on the flow of guns from the United States to Mexico.