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

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.