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Obama: not spending much time on healthcare contingency plans

By Matt Spetalnick

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Tuesday he was not spending "a whole bunch of time" preparing contingency plans should the Supreme Court overturn his healthcare overhaul law because he is confident the justices will uphold it.

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, also weighed in with a legal argument, saying the high court was unlikely to strike down a law passed by Congress "on an economic issue like healthcare that I think most people would clearly consider commerce."

It was the second straight day that Obama has applied pressure in court of public opinion as the nine justices deliberate the fate of the Affordable Care Act - the measure to expand health insurance for millions of Americans that is considered his signature domestic policy achievement.

Rejection of the law by the court, which heard heated arguments in the case last week, could be a big blow to Obama going into the November 6 presidential election.

Obama took an opening shot at conservative justices on the Supreme Court on Monday, warning that overturning his sweeping healthcare law would be an act of "judicial activism" - something Republicans say they abhor.

Speaking at a conference of news executives on Tuesday, Obama acknowledged the Supreme Court is "the final say on our constitution and our laws and all of us have to respect it."

"But it is precisely because of that extraordinary power that the court has traditionally exercised significant restraint and deference to our duly elected legislature, our Congress, and so the burden is on those who would overturn a law like this."

"I have enormous confidence that in looking at this law ... that the court is going to exercise its jurisprudence carefully," Obama said. "As a consequence we are not spending a whole bunch of time planning for contingencies."

Obama was responding to a question on what he would do if the court overturned the individual mandate - the central provision of the healthcare law - and how he would help the tens of millions of Americans who would be affected.

Obama's aides have said they have not prepared contingency plans if the measure fails.

"I don't anticipate the court striking this down. I think they take their responsibilities very seriously," he said.

Insisting that he expected the court to abide by established legal precedents, Obama said:

"We have not seen a court overturn a law that was passed by Congress on an economic issue like healthcare that I think most people would clearly consider commerce, a law like that has not been overturned at least since ... the '30s, pre-New Deal."

The Supreme Court is looking at whether Congress exceeded its power to regulate commerce in U.S. states with that mandate. Pointed questioning by several conservative justices last week suggested they may have doubts about the constitutionality of the individual mandate.

(Additional reporting by Laura MacInnis; Editing by Bill Trott)

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