The PJ Tatler

Top Romney Adviser: ObamaCare Mandate is Not a Tax

Sigh. Do we need to break out the Etch-A-Sketch?

An adviser to former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney went off-message on MSNBC Monday, arguing that the health-care mandate in the Affordable Care Act is not a tax.

“The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court, he agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice Scalia, that very clearly said that the mandate was not a tax,” Eric Fehrnstrom said. “The governor believes what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the Court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax.”

Disappointing video at the link. Disappointing, because the quote is accurate.

Mitt Romney is obviously in a bit of a bind on this particular issue, but his consistent calls to repeal ObamaCare have helped erase bad memories of MittCare and Fehrnstrom’s own “Etch-A-Sketch” comment from the primary.

Today’s comment, though, makes it pretty tough for Romney to lead the fight against ObamaCare as ObamaTax, when his top adviser says Romney doesn’t even believe hat the mandate is a tax at all. The White House’s own lawyer called the mandate a tax in his Supreme Court arguments. That argument is the one that won the day and kept ObamaCare alive. That ruling, love it or hate it, gives President Obama the title deed to a nasty new tax that he promised not to impose.

Calling the mandate a tax isn’t exactly a new argument. We called it a tax when I was comms director at the Republican Party of Texas and ObamaCare was still being debated. We called it tax because it’s a tax, and numerous other conservatives also called it a tax at the time. The IRS even stands behind its implementation. Obama himself had to defend the bill against the charge that the mandate is in fact a tax. Had he been open about what it was, it would never have been politically feasible and would not have passed. Now the Supreme Court has ruled that it’s a tax. Chief Justice John Roberts and the liberal wing of the court — a group who nearly always vote as an ideological bloc, but the medic never calls them on it — bought the conservative argument that the mandate is in practical terms and purposes a new tax.

A Romney campaign source sends along this explanation:

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?

Romney has said and will continue to say that Obamacare is a killer and a massive tax hike – $500 million and greatest hike since 1992.  But he also said from the beginning that he agrees with the dissenting view on SCOTUS.

“Congressional Republican aides tell the Plum Line that the two messages are not in conflict. Republicans, one aide argued, agree with the dissent — that the mandate is not a tax but an unconstitutional overreach — but now that it is defined as a tax, it can be criticized as such.”

Our point is Obama’s campaign, in avoiding calling it a tax, are essentially arguing Obamacare is unconstitutional.

The Mandate is either a tax or it is an unconstitutional penalty.

I think this is a bit too cute and gives away a massive talking point: That Obama dishonestly imposed a huge new tax on the very Americans to whom he promised no tax hikes. This point gets at Obama’s honesty, his competence and his pro-big government proclivities. Pincering him on whether it’s a tax or a penalty, from the point of view that it’s not a tax, may obscure the ghastly and intentional thing he has done to millions of Americans who are struggling just to get by in the Obama economy.

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