(Fox News) A federal appeals court is striking back after President Obama cautioned the Supreme Court against overturning the health care overhaul and warned that such an act would be "unprecedented."
A three-judge panel for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ordered the Justice Department to explain by Thursday whether the administration believes judges have the power to strike down a federal law.
One justice in particular chided the administration for what he said was being perceived as a "challenge" to judicial authority -- referring directly to Obama's latest comments about the Supreme Court's review of the health care case.
The testy exchange played out during a hearing over a separate ObamaCare challenge. It marked a new phase in the budding turf war between the executive and judicial branches.
"Does the Department of Justice recognize that federal courts have the authority in appropriate circumstances to strike federal statutes because of one or more constitutional infirmities?" Judge Jerry Smith asked at the hearing.
Justice Department attorney Dana Lydia Kaersvang answered "yes" to that question.
A source inside the courtroom, speaking to Fox News afterward, described the questioning by Smith as pointed.
Smith also made clear during that exchange that he was "referring to statements by the president in the past few days to the effect ... that it is somehow inappropriate for what he termed unelected judges to strike acts of Congress."
"That has troubled a number of people who have read it as somehow a challenge to the federal courts or to their authority," Smith said. "And that's not a small matter."
Smith ordered a response from the department within 48 hours. The related letter from the court, obtained by Fox News, instructed the Justice Department to provide an explanation of "no less than three pages, single spaced" by noon on Thursday...