This week could have major implications for Barack Obama’s presidency and his re-election campaign, as the Supreme Court determines the legality of two major Obama administration decisions, while congressional Republicans determine if his attorney general will be held in contempt of Congress.
The decision on “Obamacare,” which could come as soon as Monday, is of course the most consequential. The president spent much of his first two years in office pushing for universal health care legislation, and the provision is one of the biggest accomplishments of his tenure, eventually extending insurance to 30 million people. A Supreme Court decision striking down the law, or parts of it, could severely diminish a law that otherwise may be a defining part of Obama’s legacy.
And it could also turn immediately into a campaign issue. If the court strikes down any part of the law, Obama administration officials are planning to cast the conservative justices as another example of the partisanship of the Republican Party and then press Mitt Romney on whether he supports the most popular provisions in the legislation, such as making sure people who already have chronic illnesses like diabetes can buy insurance. But Romney is likely to link a negative decision from the court to the high unemployment rate and argue the president can’t manage the economy or the health care system.
The Court is also expected to rule on the tough immigration law passed in Arizona two years ago, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of people they stop. The administration filed suit to block the law from taking effect, putting the president in the center of the heated immigration debate in this country. It’s not clear this decision will have a direct political impact, but two adverse Supreme Court decisions in the same week are not likely to help the president either.
The congressional push to hold Eric Holder in contempt over the administration’s refusal to provide additional documents involving the “Fast and Furious” investigation presents another complicated issue for the administration. The president’s decision to invoke executive privilege over the documents suggests he and congressional Republicans are unlikely to compromise on the issue, and Holder will held be in contempt by House Republicans. Such a finding though is likely to have little substantive or political effect, as Obama is strongly behind Holder staying in his job, and there is little evidence that people outside of active partisans are paying close attention to this issue.