The Obama Justice Department is facing a noon deadline to submit its formal explanation over whether the administration believes judges have the power to overturn federal laws.
But while administration officials have made clear in the wake of President Obama's controversial comments that they respect that authority, it's unlikely the letter Thursday will smooth things over.
With the president's comments becoming a political football, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell plans to deliver a speech in his home state of Kentucky Thursday focusing on the president's remarks.
Speaker John Boehner's office has also been trying to pick apart the administration's argument, as Obama officials defend the president's claim that a decision to overturn the federal health care law would be "unprecedented" -- even though the courts could technically do it.
The fallout signals the dust-up will live on, with the presidential general election campaign on the horizon.
Though the formal explanation has not yet been made public, Attorney General Eric Holder offered a preview Wednesday of what it might say.
"We respect the decisions made by the courts since Marbury v. Madison," Holder said Wednesday, referring to the landmark 1803 case that established the precedent of judicial review. "Courts have final say."
The comments come after a three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to explain its position by Thursday at noon. It marked the latest escalation between the two branches of government over the federal health care overhaul, after President Obama cautioned the Supreme Court against overturning the law and warned that such an act would be "unprecedented."
Holder also described the president's comments as "appropriate," saying that while the courts have final say they "are also fairly deferential when it comes to overturning the statutes that the duly elected representatives of the people -- Congress -- passed."
He said the department is "confident health care reform will stand constitutional muster."
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney continued to defend the president's remarks -- sparring at length with reporters at Wednesday's press briefing.
Carney has argued that there's no dispute from the administration regarding the courts' authority to strike down laws. He says the president was instead referring specifically to the traditional deference the court has shown Congress when it comes to laws addressing challenges to the economy -- such as health care.
"What he did was make an unremarkable observation about 80 years of Supreme Court history," Carney said Wednesday. He went on to say, "It's the reverse of intimidation."
Boehner's office later cited cases over the past two decades where the Supreme Court overturned federal laws because they exceeded limitations under the Commerce Clause -- which is at the heart of the health care case.
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