Politics

Romney: Insurance mandate is a tax, high court 'has spoken'

Could campaign mixed message on whether the individual mandate is a tax or penalty after Supreme Court ruling cost Romney victory in November?

 

Mitt Romney on Wednesday made another attempt at clarifying his view of the recent Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s health-care reform law, saying the punishment for failing to purchase insurance is a tax – not a penalty fine.

The GOP presidential candidate said he agreed with the minority of justices in the 5-4 decision that the punishment is a fine, but “the Supreme Court has spoken.”

“The majority of the court said it’s a tax, therefore it’s a tax,” Romney said in a CBS News interview. “They have spoken. There’s no way around that. … The American people (now) know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made. He said he wouldn’t raise taxes on middle-income Americans.”

Romney’s comments follow top campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom saying Monday the candidate thinks the consequence for not purchasing mandated insurance is a penalty. Fehrnstrom said that position is the same one Romney took on a similar fine under the statewide health-care initiative he instituted as Massachusetts governor.

Fehrnstrom’s statement was a departure from House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders who have, since the high court’s decision Thursday, gotten behind the majority ruling, an election-year attempt to pin a tax increase on the president.

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GOP leaders also have said congressional Democrats up for reelection this fall will have a hard time defending the law now that its central provision is, according to the court, a tax. 

Romney’s comments Wednesday in fact mark the second time in three days that the campaign has attempted to clarify its position.

Hours after Fehrnstrom’s comment, the campaign issued a statement saying Romney considers the fine an “unconstitutional penalty” rather than a tax.