In an interview with CBS News that aired on Wednesday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said the federal health reform law's individual mandate would impose a tax on residents who fail to obtain coverage, the Washington Post reports (Rucker, Washington Post, 7/4).
In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the mandate is constitutional under Congress' taxing power. Republican leaders quickly seized on the decision.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the law "was sold to the American people on a deception" because "one of the Democrats' top selling points" was that the mandate does not constitute a tax (California Healthline, 6/29).
Romney Campaign Aide, Spokesperson Say Mandate Imposes a Penalty
According to the Los Angeles Times, Romney contradicted, but "effectively overruled" a campaign aide's earlier remarks that the mandate imposes a penalty, which the Obama administration also reiterated earlier this week (Landsberg, Los Angeles Times, 7/4).
In an interview with MSNBC on Monday, Eric Fehrnstrom -- a senior campaign adviser -- said Romney "disagreed with the ruling" to uphold the mandate as a tax, adding that Romney "agreed with the dissent written by Justice [Antonin] Scalia, which very clearly stated the mandate was not a tax."
Andrea Saul -- a spokesperson for Romney -- echoed Fehrnstrom's remarks, saying the mandate "is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty," adding that "Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty" (Shear, New York Times, 7/2).
Romney Clarifies Stance on Individual Mandate
During his interview with CBS News, Romney said he disagreed with the Supreme Court's majority opinion and close aides say he still believes the mandate is an "unconstitutional penalty," according to the Times (Los Angeles Times, 7/4).
However, Romney said the "Supreme Court has the final word, and their final word is that ObamaCare is a tax. ... They decided it was constitutional. So it is a tax, and it's constitutional" (Washington Post, 7/4).
During the interview, Romney also said that the high court's ruling does not apply to the individual mandate in the Massachusetts health care law he signed in 2006 while governor, the AP/Boston Globe reports (Hunt, AP/Boston Globe, 7/4).
The state's mandate imposes a charge on residents' tax returns if they fail to obtain health insurance, which is collected by the state's tax agency (O'Connor, Wall Street Journal, 7/2).
Romney said, "At the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates. They don't need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional," adding, "And as a result, Massachusetts' mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the Legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was" (AP/Boston Globe, 7/4).