Romney’s McCain moment: Claims ObamaCare is not a tax
posted at 1:50 pm on July 3, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
If there’s one thing that can be said for Mitt Romney it’s that he knows how to look a gift horse in the mouth. Here, the Supreme Court hands him, if nothing else, a solid opening for an argument that ObamaCare is a tax, thereby violating the president’s oft-reiterated pledge not to raise taxes on the middle class. Equipped with this talking point, high-level Republicans took to the airwaves on Sunday.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, “The president said it was not a tax. The Supreme Court, which has the final say, says it is a tax. The tax is going be levied, 77% of it, on Americans making less than $120,000 a year. So it is a middle class tax … increase.” House Speaker John Boehner carried the same message to viewers of CBS’s Face The Nation, maintaining that the American people “do not want the government telling them what kind of insurance policy they have to buy and how much they have to pay for it, and if you don’t like it, we’re going to tax you.”
Democrats meantime engaged in damage control. A busy White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew appeared on both Fox News Sunday and ABC’s This Week to offer up some fast-on-the-feet hooey that included the bogus claim that Chief Justice Roberts said “Congress has … a power—whatever you call it—to assess a penalty like this.”
So what did Team Romney do? They effectively punted the ball back to Obama. On Tuesday, senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom appeared on MSNBC’s Daily Rundown (video here), where he was asked by host Chuck Todd whether Romney agreed with last week’s Supreme Court ruling.
Said Fehrnstrom, “The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax.” An incredulous Todd pressed for clarification on whether Romney supported calling the financial burden placed on Americans who choose not to buy health care “a penalty or a fee or a fine” rather than a tax. Fehrnstrom replied, “That’s correct.”
Not content to shoot itself in the foot and limp away, the Romney campaign took aim at the other foot. Romney spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg “cleared up the confusion,” telling ABC News:
The Supreme Court left President Obama with two choices: the federal individual mandate in ObamaCare is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty. Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty. What is President Obama’s position: is his federal mandate unconstitutional or is it a tax?
Today’s headlines are a mix of metaphors. An article by National Journal’s Josh Kraushaar is titled “Romney Campaign Declaring Cease Fire on Health Care.” The Weekly Standard’s Jeffrey Anderson prefers “A Hanging Curveball for Mitt,” a reference to a mistake in baseball by a pitcher, which any good hitter will pounce on, crushing the ball into the stands.
Why Romney is instead tapping the ball weakly back to the pitcher is anyone’s guess.
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