Green Room

Romney’s McCain moment: Claims ObamaCare is not a tax

posted at 1:50 pm on July 3, 2012 by

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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as the law is written it is specifically NOT A TAX. only one of the justices rewrote the law- none of the others agreed with him . one assumes that means technically the law stands as it was written : the mandate is an unconstitutional penalty not a tax. but who knows- roberts really blanked the pooch several times over with this one.

mittenz is just playing semantics- like everyone else- save his special albatross of romenycare makes him the man who signed into law a budget busting program and huge tax on the lower to mid- middle class-if he agrees with the Roberts Tax.

mittens on July 3, 2012 at 2:07 PM

Not that I agree with the strategy, but what Romney’s camp is basically saying is “It’s one of two things – the biggest tax hike on the middle class in history, or a penalty that the Supreme Court said wasn’t constitutional. Which one is it, champ?”

crazy_legs on July 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Sorry, Mr. Portman, but beyond maintaining the position he always had re mandate-penalties, Romney keeps more clubs with which to beat Obama. Think about it some more, please.

ParisParamus on July 3, 2012 at 2:19 PM

crazy_legs on July 3, 2012 at 2:10 PM

You actually raise a point that I had been mulling over myself before Romney’s gaffe–that this is a lose-lose for Obama. The more his surrogates hammer home the message, “We are not taxing you, we are punishing you,” the more hurt they inflict on themselves. This is why it is doubly unfortunate for Romney to weigh in as he did. If nothing else, his comment diverts attention from Team Obama’s message.

Howard Portnoy on July 3, 2012 at 2:32 PM

There were quite a few other Republican candidates that did mention that this issue would probably come front and center during the general campaign, and that Romney would be the absolutely worst person to have in place when it did.

This was them saying “I told you so” to everyone in the future which is now. Well, I’ll saying it again for them, “I TOLD YOU SO!!”

This would be the very last nail in the coffin for Obama if it wasn’t for Romney. I just hope the TEA Party and conservatives will really work hard in getting more real conservatives with a backbone into congress. They will be our last best hope for our country.

Ronaldusmax on July 3, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Let me guess Eric Fehrnstrom is an attorney? I can’t imagine a more idiotic comment. Who let this guy out of the cellar?

Gad I wish the GOP had a good candidate, but after Dole, McCain, etc .. It’s hard to imagine that the Good Ol’Boys could even conceive of a good candidate, let alone produce one.

The best news in this whole thing is the polling data that says that only 6% think health care is important

CrazyGene on July 3, 2012 at 3:41 PM

No, Romney isn’t hoisting the white flag on Obamacare! Here’s a link to PJ media, that points out that the National Journal that started this thing is a Leftist rag that is trying to promote confusion!

Let’s stop letting the left stir up trouble, shall we?

http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2012/07/03/no-romney-isnt-declaring-cease-fire-on-obamatax/

hachiban on July 3, 2012 at 4:21 PM

It’s not a tax. I don’t think people understand what they’re buying into when they say it’s a tax. Congress has the power to tax you. Whatever you call a tax, Congress can do to you.

Obamacare isn’t a tax. It’s a form of robbery, or involuntary servitude — take your pick. If it’s a tax, it’s constitutional, and Congress can repeat the process to make you buy anything.

J.E. Dyer on July 3, 2012 at 5:17 PM

we were given such a great opportunity to attack obama because he went back and forth on whether the mandate is a tax. thank you team romney for taking a big conservative opportunity AND RUINING IT.

but i’m not surprised. i had already thought that it was silly that many conservatives were more fired up for romney after the court decision. lol, really? you hate obamacare so that means you are all fired up and passionate about voting for… romneycare? yeah i did not feel increased enthusiams to vote for romney.

i wish there were a way that we could trade him in for a new nominee.

Sachiko on July 3, 2012 at 10:23 PM

It’s not a tax. I don’t think people understand what they’re buying into when they say it’s a tax. Congress has the power to tax you. Whatever you call a tax, Congress can do to you.

Obamacare isn’t a tax. It’s a form of robbery, or involuntary servitude — take your pick. If it’s a tax, it’s constitutional, and Congress can repeat the process to make you buy anything.

J.E. Dyer on July 3, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Congress does have the power to tax, but it’s not an unqualified unlimited power. If it were, then “consent of the governed” wouldn’t mean shit.

gryphon202 on July 4, 2012 at 8:04 AM

This is nuts. Everyone is twisting themselves into knots over semantics and missing the big picture in the process. Romney agrees with Alito, Thomas, Kennedy and Scalia’s dissent that it isn’t a tax. What do you want him to do? Agree with Roberts? Conservatives are justifiably mad a Roberts for saying it’s a tax but now they’re mad at Fehrnstrom for saying it isn’t?

The Bottom line is ObamaCare raises taxes and that would not have changed if the law was deemed constitutional based on the Commerce Clause. Yes, the fact Roberts deemed it a tax is reprehensible because his reasoning is incoherent, he rewrote the law, it ignores precedent about taxes having to be in place before the court can hear arguments about them, it creates a precedent for Congress “taxing” people for inactivity, and so forth. Yes, the law should have been overturned but it wasn’t, based on flimsy “reasoning”. But this is a separate issue from the fact that ObamaCare is a humongous tax increase and too many Americans are not aware of what’s coming down the pike for them. This is where we have to focus our attention – disseminating information, kicking O out of office, getting a majority in the Senate, and repealing the tax-hiking, liberty-stifling law.

Buy Danish on July 4, 2012 at 9:08 AM