Romney Adviser Seems To Undercut GOP Health Care Tax Argument | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

NPR : News

Romney Adviser Seems To Undercut GOP Health Care Tax Argument

There apparently isn't a unified Republican message on whether President Obama has introduced a big new tax through the Affordable Care Act.

Eric Fehrnstrom, a top aide to Mitt Romney, said Monday that the Republican presidential candidate's position is that the penalty under the new law — the one for people who can afford to buy health insurance, but don't — is not a tax.

The Supreme Court last week upheld the health care law's individual mandate on the grounds that it is a permissible tax, in a 5-4 opinion authored by Chief Justice John Roberts.

Asked by NBC News' Chuck Todd how Romney and his advisers described the money individuals had to pay for failing to buy insurance under the Massachusetts health care law Romney signed as governor, Fehrnstrom said it also was a "penalty" — not a tax — and that Romney had always classified it as such.

Romney's response immediately after Thursday's ruling was in line with the dissent embraced by four of the high court's conservatives, Fehrnstrom said:

"The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court. He agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax."

Thus, Romney and Obama appear to share the same view, at least on calling the enforcement provision of the individual mandate a penalty, not a tax.

Democrats have defended Obama against conservative attacks that his signature health care law will raise taxes on the middle class when the individual mandate takes effect in 2014 by saying, one, it's not a tax; and two, if it is, then Romney imposed a similar tax as Massachusetts governor.

And who better for Romney to cite for support than Justice Antonin Scalia, a conservative icon?

By saying he doesn't accept Roberts' ruling that the individual mandate enforcement mechanism is a tax (and therefore constitutional), Romney not only ties himself to Scalia — he distances himself from Roberts. And the chief justice has become increasingly unpopular in some conservative circles since Thursday's ruling.

Still, Romney's word choice throws an obstacle in front of conservatives who have indicated they intend to criticize Obama, from now until Election Day, for imposing a new tax.

And when congressional Republicans and other conservatives charge that the individual mandate contains a new tax, their claims could be dampened somewhat when the man atop November's Republican ballot says it doesn't.

Democrats, as you'd expect, wasted little time pointing out Fehrnstrom's comments.

But conservatives are highlighting evidence of discomfiture among Democrats over Roberts' individual-mandate-equals-tax equation.

The Hot Air blog pointed out, as others have, an appearance by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader from California, on NBC's Meet The Press on Sunday. At one point, Pelosi seemed about to refer to the "penalty" as a "tax" — but pulled back from it in mid-thought.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

An 'Epilogue' That Makes Sense Of The Chaos Of Memory

In his episodic memoir, Will Boast meets the siblings he never knew while navigating family deaths and secrets. Critic Ellah Allfrey finds Epilogue conceptually ambitious, but lacking in execution.
NPR

Giving Chickens Bacteria ... To Keep Them Antibiotic-Free

What does it take to get chickens off antibiotics? According to Perdue Farms, an added dose of the "good bacteria" known as probiotics can help crowd out the harmful microbes that make a chicken sick.
NPR

Why Did Congress Kick The Can On Funding Islamic State Mission?

The president got approval for his plan to train and equip Syrian opposition fighters, but lawmakers didn't approve funds to pay for it or the broader air campaign.
NPR

Some Tech Firms Capitalize On Privacy

Steve Henn of NPR's Planet Money team profiles some entrepreneurs who are working on a novel business model to start up a new tech company. It's pay for service. What a concept.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.