(CNN) – The White House is encouraging Democratic allies in Congress to engage in a debate on taxes after the Supreme Court's ruling on President Barack Obama's health care law brought the issue back into the national spotlight.
David Plouffe, a senior adviser to Obama, wrote in a memo delivered to House and Senate Democratic caucuses Friday that Democrats were eager to debate their GOP rivals on taxes. Plouffe pointed out the Obama administration's achievements on lowering rates for middle class Americans.
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The memo came a day after the Supreme Court upheld Obama's sweeping health care law. Chief Justice John Roberts said the penalty on Americans who opt against buying health insurance is actually a tax, therefore making the individual mandate constitutional. Congress, Roberts reasoned, has the authority to assess taxes.
That ruling, while in the president's favor, was quickly seized upon by Republicans, who used it as evidence that Obama had raised taxes on Americans.
"That's not what the president said when he introduced the bill, but what the court said was that it's OK because it's a tax," U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-Georgia, told CNN Thursday. "The debate that we're happy to have is that our friends on the other side of the aisle [not only] want to tax what you do, they want to tax even what you don't do."
And Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said, "Millions of Americans may now have an IRS problem as a result of the ruling."
In his memo, Plouffe encouraged Democratic lawmakers to jump headlong into the tax debate.
"We welcome this debate on middle class taxes, and we urge you to seize this opportunity to go on offense to illustrate how the President and Democrats in Congress are standing up for the middle class," Plouffe wrote.
He went on to list Democrats' achievements on taxes and explain the provision in question in Obama's health law, managing to take a jab at presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
"For those that can afford health insurance but stay uninsured-forcing the rest of us to subsidize their care for free-a penalty is administered," Plouffe wrote. "This is estimated by the CBO to affect 1% of the population. It is modeled on the health reform Governor Romney signed into law, where less than 1% have been affected by the Massachusetts penalty."
While Thursday's ruling stipulated the central facet of Obama's law could stand if viewed as a tax, Obama himself denied the mandate was a tax during a 2009 interview with ABC, comparing it to state requirements that motorists carry auto insurance.
"Nobody considers that a tax increase. People say to themselves, 'that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I'm not covering all the costs,'" Obama said.
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