Romney Says Obama’s Health Care Mandate is a Tax

In an interview today, Mitt Romney clarified his view on whether or not Obama’s individual health care mandate is a tax.

In that interview, Romney states:

“While I agreed with the dissent, that’s taken over by the fact that the majority of the court said it’s a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken.”

“They concluded it was a tax. That’s what it is, and the American people know that President Obama has broken the pledge he made,” he added. “He said he wouldn’t raise taxes on middle-income Americans. Not only did he raise the $500 billion that was already in the bill, it’s now clear that his mandate as described by the Supreme Court is a tax.”

In the run up to the Supreme Court decision on Obamacare, Republicans, including Romney, had hoped that the mandate would be found unconstitutional as both a penalty and a tax. Republicans also argued that the mandate could not legitimately be classified as a tax. It should not be a surprise then that Romney, as well as other Republicans, originally disagreed with the majority ruling that found Obamacare constitutional as a tax.

But now that the Supreme Court has ruled, their ruling becomes the law of the land and the reality America must accept. As Romney said in his interview today, “If the Supreme Court says its a tax, it’s a tax.”

Romney believes that since we are stuck with the ruling and definition of the Supreme Court, Obama needs to be held accountable to the American people for that ruling. Obama needs to be held accountable to the American people that he raised their taxes after promising many times that he would not raise taxes on the middle class.

The Supreme Court ruling then represents a major problem for President Obama because he can now be accurately described as a “tax raiser,” and a politician who can’t (whether intentionally or unintentionally) keep his campaign promises. And Romney fully intends to exploit that weakness in the coming campaign.

Obamacare Ruling by The Supreme Court - A Preview of the Impact

The Supreme Court is set to rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare any day now, although most expect that ruling to happen sometime in the end of June.

Since the ruling could happen so soon, I wanted to explore what impact the court’s ruling might have on Obama’s (or Romney’s) support. Luckily, there are really only 3 general ways that the court will rule, so we don’t have to get too complicated here.

#1) If the Supreme Court strikes down ALL of Obamacare as unconstitutional . . . .

Republicans will rejoice and Obama will suffer a major defeat. That is it, plain and simple. One commentator summarized the effect this would have on Obama by saying: 

“There is undeniable danger in the optics of an election-year health care defeat, just as there was in early 2010 when the bill teetered. Obama simply can’t allow health care to be a Jimmy Carter-in-the-desert moment, proof that he recklessly, fecklessly pushed through a doomed law at the expense of focusing on the economy and jobs.

If the entire bill is struck down, the credibility of Obama to deliver on his promise of “hope and change” will disintegrate. The American people will ask themselves “How can I trust Obama to improve my situation if his biggest domestic accomplishment turns out to be unconstitutional? How could a former professor of constitutional law err so badly by passing a huge unconstitutional law?” Needless to say, if the Supreme Court struck down the whole bill, this would be a disaster for the president. Obama’s credibility to bring about real change in America will be severely crippled.

Of course Obama could try to pick up the pieces of the disaster by decrying a “purely partisan Supreme Court,” and how he is the only candidate to attempt bold, sweeping change in health care reform, but it wouldn’t be enough. His brand would be too badly damaged.

#2) If Obamacare is upheld in its entirety . . . . 

This ruling would be a mixed bag for the president. He could claim success in reforming healthcare, something no president has done for almost 50 years. He could claim that bold, sweeping innovations was what his presidency was all about and now he is fulfilling that promise. 

However, despite the advantages of such a ruling, Obama would then be forced to defend a deeply unpopular mandate that requires all Americans purchase health insurance. A ruling that upheld Obamacare would rally conservatives and opponents of the mandate like never before in a last ditch attempt to overturn the mandate by electing Republican Mitt Romney who has vowed to repeal it. In my opinion, even if the Supreme Court upholds Obamacare, the issue will be overall negative for the president simply because it will rally the opponents so powerfully.

#3) If part of the law is struck down . . . . 

Republicans will cheer but vow to repeal the rest. Obama will sustain a heavy blow but will claim a partial victory for fixing a broken health care system. Neither side will have a clear win on the issue but I believe the Republicans will have the advantage. Republicans will claim that they fought and partially dismantled major components of the unpopular law. Obama will still be too hesitant to tout the law for fear of siding with an overall unpopular bill. 

So all-in-all, there is a good chance that no matter what the outcome, the bill is a loser for Obama. 

Interestingly, during the Supreme Court hearings on Obamacare, Romney was vindicated in his assertion that an individual mandate is unconstitutional when passed by the federal government, but it is constitutional when passed by a state government. Paul Clement, the main lawyer who worked to get rid of Obamacare’s mandate, said the following about Romney’s statewide mandate:

Clement told the court, just as Romney has told Republican primary voters, that states have the power to enact individual mandates wheras the federal government has no such authority.

“I do think the States could pass this mandate,” Clement said today in response to a question from Justice Sonia Sotomayor. “[T]he States can do it because they have a police power, and that is a fundamental difference between the States on the one hand and the limited, enumerated Federal Government on the other.”

If the Supreme Court agrees that states can enact mandates, but rules that Obama’s mandate is an unconstitutional infringement on individual liberty, then Romney will have a solid rebuttal.

Because the federal government is granted limited/”enumerated” powers by the  constitution, it has no authority to pass an individual mandate. However, nobody is arguing that states don’t have the right to institute an individual mandate because states are granted much broader “policing” and regulating powers.