Republicans are seizing on the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold ‘Obamacare’ under Congress’s taxing power to accuse Democrats of raising taxes on the middle class. But they’re finding it difficult to square that with the fact that their presidential nominee enacted the same concept as governor of Massachusetts.
Although Mitt Romney has vowed to repeal ‘Obamacare’, his 2006 law includes the same core elements, including the mandate to purchase insurance or pay a fine. In 2009, Romney wrote in a USA Today op-ed that he used “tax penalties” to achieve the objective of broadening coverage.
On Fox News Sunday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) attacked President Obama for sneaking a tax increase past the American public.
“The Supreme Court has now declared it a tax. They have unearthed the massive deception that was practiced by the president and the Democrats, constantly denying that it was a tax,” McConnell said. “The chief justice has made it clear — it’s a tax.”
But the GOP leader dodged several questions on whether ‘Romneycare’ is also a tax increase.
“Well I think Governor Romney will have to speak for himself about what was done in Massachusetts,” McConnell said. “I can tell you that every single Democratic senator voted for this tax increase.”
On CBS’ Face The Nation, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) also ducked questions about whether Romney has a credibility problem because of his mandate.
“This is an issue that was in Massachusetts — that’s one state,” he said. “That’s why we have 50 different states. They’re laboratories of democracy. Governor Romney understands that Obamacare will bankrupt our country and ruin the best health care delivery system in the world. … This is far more than any state has ever comprehended or tried to do.”
The Congressional Budget Office projects that the tax penalty will hit 4 million people in 2016, or just over 1 percent of the population.
White House chief of staff Jack Lew, also appearing on Fox News Sunday, repeatedly denied that the penalty for noncompliance with the individual mandate is a tax hike, even though it’s enforced via the tax code and was upheld on Congress’s taxing powers.
“It was set up and it was not called a tax,” he said. “But there are powers that Congress has and you can justify a law in multiple ways.” Obama’s top aide added that “When he was governor of Massachusetts, Governor Romney put a plan in place that has many of the features that the Affordable Care Act makes available on a national basis.”
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called the mandate “a penalty on free-riders.”
“Mitt Romney is in a total pickle here. He prescribed this. This was his bill,” Schumer said on CBS’ Face The Nation. “Are [Republicans] going to say that Mitt Romney had the biggest tax increase in Massachusetts? Forget about it.”
Romney, for his part, responded to the Supreme Court ruling by saying, “If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we’re going to have to replace President Obama.”
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.