Team Romney: Individual mandate not a tax
Thanks to the Supreme Court decision on ObamaCare, Republicans have been given a talking point — that the individual mandate is a tax — with which to knock President Barack Obama. Americans have an aversion to taxes and there is little doubt that the talking point will favor the GOP in the fall. In fact, a new CNN poll shows that Americans are indeed viewing the individual mandate as a tax.
But Mitt Romney may have pulled the rug out from underneath his party. The Hill notes that Romney’s campaign is quickly backing away from the claim, and agreeing with Obama’s talking point that the individual mandate is not a tax:
Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign broke with congressional Republicans on Monday by arguing that the individual mandate upheld by the Supreme Court last week is a penalty, not a tax.
The majority in the court’s decision ruled it constitutional because it was a tax, and Republicans in Congress since that decision have hit the White House hard for raising taxes through the new law.
But a spokesman for Romney on Monday said the former Massachusetts governor agrees with Obama that the individual mandate is a penalty or a fine, rather than a tax.
In a roundabout exchange on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown” on Monday, Eric Fehrnstrom was asked if he agrees with Obama that the individual mandate is not a tax.
“That’s correct,” Fehrnstrom said. “But the president also needs to be held accountable for his contradictory statements. He has described it variously as a penalty and as a tax. He needs to reconcile those two very different statements.”
Let’s not forget that President Obama has been inconsistent on this particular point. Remember, he told George Stephanopoulos during the health care debate in Congress that the individual mandate was not a tax. But then his administration flipped shortly after the law was passed, arguing that congressional authority to pass the individual fell under the Taxing Power. Chief Justice John Roberts ultimately bought that line.
So why is Romney backing away from this claim? Since ObamaCare was largely based on the health care reform law he passed in Massachusetts, including the individual mandate; Romney is just as guilty of raising taxes as Obama.
This, folks, is the risk of running someone with so many glaring holes in his record. This is an important talking point that could be used in fall campaigns where, not only control of Congress is on the line, but also Republican plans to repeal ObamaCare. But Romney, who is never one to make things easy, may have snatched that line away.