The White House fired back at Justice John Roberts Tuesday night, after the Supreme Court Chief told a crowd that he found it "very troubling" that President Barack Obama would criticize the court during his State of the Union address.
In a statement sent to reporters, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said that the only troubling thing was the 5-4 ruling by the court, which said that corporations could spend unlimited amounts of money advocating on behalf of candidates in elections. Roberts leads the court.
"What is troubling is that this decision opened the floodgates for corporations and special interests to pour money into elections - drowning out the voices of average Americans," Gibbs said. "The President has long been committed to reducing the undue influence of special interests and their lobbyists over government. That is why he spoke out to condemn the decision and is working with Congress on a legislative response."
The push back against the Supreme Court header from the White House seems almost unprecedented in its directness, though White House officials claim previous administrations expressed equally public criticisms of the court. Undoubtedly, it's bound to spur another round of debates over what constitutes proper decorum between the two branches.
The president already stirred the pot when, during the State of the Union address in late January, he called out members of the court to their face over their ruling in Citizens United. The remarks were welcomed as a healthy rebuke by good government groups, who viewed the decision as a practical disaster for removing moneyed interests from politics. Conservatives saw it as an offensive lecturing inappropriate breach of etiquette.
Roberts, himself, made it clear where he stood on Tuesday, telling a crowd at the University of Alabama that the president had "denigrated" the State of the Union into "a political pep rally."
"The image of having the members of one branch of government standing up, literally surrounding the Supreme Court, cheering and hollering while the court - according the requirements of protocol - has to sit there expressionless, I think is very troubling," Roberts said.