Romney, GOP Split on Whether Health Care Mandate Is a Tax
House Speaker John Boehner answers questions with fellow Republicans after the Supreme Court’s health care ruling. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.
In its ruling in favor of President Obama’s health care law, the Supreme Court handed Republicans a political weapon by calling the individual mandate a tax.
But likely GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney appears set to disarm his party’s attacks by siding with the president in terms of how the mandate is interpreted.
In an exchange with MSNBC’s Chuck Todd on Monday, top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom punctured the tax balloon. Here’s the exchange:
TODD: It sounds like Gov. Romney though agrees that it’s not a tax. So what you just said is that Gov. Romney agrees that it’s not a tax. You guys called it a tax?
FEHRNSTROM: The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court. He agreed with the dissent written by Justice [Antonin] Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax.
TODD: Okay…I think we’re talking around each other. The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax? That is what you’re saying?
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.
TODD: But he agrees with the president that it is not, and he believes that you should not call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?
FEHRNSTROM: That’s correct.
After the remarks dominated cable news chatter and Twitter (with political junkies digging up Fehrnstrom’s awkward “Etch-a-sketch” quote from the primary campaign), the Romney campaign issued a statement attempting to clarify things.
“The Supreme Court left President Obama with two choices: the federal individual mandate in Obamacare is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty,” said spokeswoman Andrea Saul. Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty. What is President Obama’s position: is his federal mandate unconstitutional or is it a tax?”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., was asked Sunday during an appearance on Fox News whether if the national mandate is a tax means that the requirement in Massachusetts is also a tax.
“I think Gov. Romney will have to speak for himself about what was done in Massachusetts,” McConnell said.
And therein lies the dilemma for Republicans. While many in the party immediately pounced on the health care ruling to slam the president for raising taxes, the person they’ve chosen to make the case against the Obama presidency has not followed suit given his own history on the issue.
McConnell told a group in Kentucky on Monday that it is hard to undo the law, reports Daniel Straus of The Hill.
“If you like the bill — and some of you may — it is hard to undo something of this magnitude. It was a 2,700 page bill, which nobody really understands anyway,” McConnell said.
A note to our readers: The Morning Line will take Wednesday off to celebrate America’s birthday. Be safe, everyone, and we’ll be back Thursday.
A CONSTITUTIONAL MATTER
Jeffrey Brown drilled down into the court’s health care ruling with two top constitutional scholars, Larry Tribe, a law professor who taught Chief Justice John Roberts, and David Rivkin, who represented the states that challenged the health care law.
They sparred over what the decision signifies about the court’s ideological divide and the legal heart of the matter.
“I have been saying from the very beginning this is not about health care. This is not about individual mandate. It’s about constitutional architecture,” Rivkin said.
Tribe said the Obama administration took the position that it’s important to recognize the difference between the police powers of the states and the limited powers of the federal government, “but it simply argued that this law was within those powers, and it turns out that it was.”
“You know, we don’t have a rule in the Constitution of just one clause per case,” he added. “Something can be valid because of several possible sources of power.”
Watch the full segment here or below.
Josh Gerstein looks at liberal fears about Romney in Tuesday’s Politico. For more on the conservative backlash to the court’s decision be sure to check out Robert Barnes’ story in the Washington Post and Adam Liptak’s report in the New York Times.
The NewsHour will take a look at the landmark court term as a whole on Wednesday night. Tune in to see Judy Woodruff chat with Marcia Coycle of the National Law Journal and presidential historian Michael Beschloss.
A lot has happened in the past month, including the release of a new jobs report, the president’s decision to shield some undocumented immigrants from deportation and a flurry of activity at the Supreme Court. But the latest snapshot of the presidential campaign released Monday by CNN found the race unchanged from a month ago, with the president leading Romney, 49 percent to 46 percent. The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percent.
The poll gave Romney a 51 percent to 43 percent advantage in 15 battleground states, a list that included Republican-leaning states Arizona, Indiana and Missouri.
Other recent surveys of battleground states have put the president ahead of Romney. Last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll gave Mr. Obama a 50 percent to 42 percent lead in the dozen states surveyed: Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the Affordable Care Act, 51 percent of respondents in the CNN survey said the president would better handle the issue of health care compared to 44 percent who picked Romney.
Reporter-producer Cassie M. Chew writes that 56 percent of Americans said they would like to see the health care law’s detractors stop efforts to block its implementation and move on to other national problems, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation poll assessing the public’s reaction to the court’s ruling.
The survey found that Democrats overwhelmingly said opponents should move on to other issues (82 percent), as do 51 percent of independents and 26 percent of Republicans. But seven in 10 Republicans (69 percent) said they want to see efforts to stop the law continue, a view shared by 41 percent of independents and 14 percent of Democrats.
The poll found 47 percent approved of the court’s decision and 43 percent disapproved. Independents were evenly divided, 44 percent in favor and 43 percent opposed.
Solid majorities of voters of every political stripe said the decision won’t impact whether or not they vote this November, though Republicans were more likely than Democrats (31 percent compared to 18 percent) to say the result makes them more likely to turn out.
The survey was conducted Thursday to Saturday via a random digit dial landline and cell phone sample of 1,239 adults in both English and Spanish. The margin of error is plus or minus 3 percent.
2012 LINE ITEMS
- The Obama campaign is out with a new ad keeping up the Romney-is-an-outsourcer drumbeat. It will run in Colorado, Florida, Iowa, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia, the campaign said. Watch it here or below.
- The Republican National Committee has a new web video hitting the president on the deficit and debt. Watch it here or below.
The Obama campaign is highlighting a Vanity Fair piece looking at Romney’s offshore accounts.
David Brody explores Romney’s efforts to woo evangelicals. The NewsHour will have more on Brody’s reporting this week.
Politico reported that Romney “told a private group of potential supporters and business and media elites, including Rupert Murdoch, that he was treading carefully around the issue of immigration to avoid looking like a ‘flip-flopper.’”
The Obama campaign has engaged in a squabble over fact checks on FactCheck.org.
Roll Call’s Janie Lorber investigates and finds that Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, is the richest of the members of Congress in Romney’s so-called veepstakes. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., “is likely among the least wealthy Members of the Senate with a net worth of negative $400,000,” she writes.
There will be no Martha’s Vineyard vacation for the first family this summer.
- BuzzFeed has pictures of Mitt and Ann Romney riding a jet ski on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire.
Power outage, Day Four, the realization sets in that this dress rehearsal for the Zombie Apocalypse hasn’t gone that well…
— Olivier Knox (@OKnox) July 3, 2012
Noticed in my Facebook feed someone is making John Roberts t-shirts. twitpic.com/a3eatq
— Christina Bellantoni (@cbellantoni) July 3, 2012
The more we learn of the explicit dishonesty about taxes in obamacare the more destructive it is. The Fourth of July isgood day to reflect
— Newt Gingrich (@newtgingrich) July 3, 2012
Rep. Larry Kissell vying for title of most anti-Obama Dem: Won’t attend convention or endorse Obama for re-elect #HotlineSort
— Reid Wilson (@HotlineReid) July 3, 2012
— Jeff Solnet (@jfsolnet) July 2, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
A source tells the Morning Line that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will announce it has raised $2.3 million from nearly 65,000 grassroots donations since the court’s health care ruling. The average contribution was $35, and Saturday was the single biggest grassroots’ fundraising day in DCCC history, the committee will announce in a release later Tuesday.
Democratic groups have reserved nearly $20 million in ad time across 38 media markets, Roll Call’s Abby Livingston reports.
Betty Ann Bowser looks at how the Medicaid decision will affect the nation’s poorest people.
On the NewsHour Monday, Margaret Warner reported from Mexico about the presidential election. Watch the segment here.
The 13-year-old kid who dazzled at the Conservative Political Action Conference a few years ago is now a 17-year-old “Obamacare” backer who isn’t in agreement with conservatives, Politico reports.
- BuzzFeed presents the high school photos of 69 politicians.
Cassie M. Chew and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
Vice President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Education Association’s annual meeting in Washington at 10 a.m. then travels to Scranton, Pa., for a 4:30 p.m. campaign event. He’ll also speak at Scranton’s fireworks celebration at 7:30 p.m.
- President Obama and Mitt Romney have no public events scheduled.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.