July 3rd, 2012
09:27 AM ET
2 years ago

RNC Chair: 'It's a tax'

(CNN) – The Republican confusion over what to call a fine in President Barack Obama's health care law gained little clarity Tuesday, as the party's chairman adamantly called the fee a "tax" the day after a senior Mitt Romney adviser insisted it was a "penalty."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said on CNN's "Starting Point" that he, along with other Republicans, were calling it a "tax" because the Supreme Court ruled last week it was only constitutional if viewed that way.

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"The Supreme Court has stated that Obamacare is a tax, and so since they have ruled that, it's a tax," Priebus said.

Priebus, attempting to put on a united front on Tuesday, said that he was asserting the same position as Romney.

"Our position is the same as Mitt Romney's position. It's a tax. That's the only way the Supreme Court came up with the decision it did in order to make it constitutional," Priebus said.

Senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom didn't seem so sure on Monday.

In an interview on MSNBC, Fehrnstrom said Romney agrees with Obama that the individual mandate is no tax.

"He agreed with the dissent written by Justice Scalia which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax," Fehrnstrom said.

When pressed repeatedly if Romney agrees with Obama and Democrats that the penalty is no tax, Fehrnstrom eventually said, "That's correct."

Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg issued a statement Monday reiterating the point, writing "Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty."

"What is President Obama's position: is his federal mandate unconstitutional or is it a tax?" Henneberg continued.

Obama's chief of staff Jack Lew also asserted the fee was a "penalty" on Sunday, when he explained the "tax" versus "penalty" distinction to CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley.

"Well, actually, [the Supreme Court] didn't call it a tax," Jack Lew said on CNN's "State of the Union." "They said it was using a power under the Constitution that permits it. It was not labeled."

"And this is a penalty. It's something that only one percent of the people who could afford insurance who choose not to get it will pay," Lew continued.

Romney's position on Obama's health care law is complicated by the measure he passed as governor of Massachusetts, which included a mandate similar to Obama's on a state level.

While Republicans have been vocal about pointing to the penalty being termed a tax, his campaign has been careful to avoid being drawn into a comparison on the point.

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Filed under: 2012 • Healthcare • Mitt Romney • Reince Priebus
soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. JimB

    All the do is say "no" and distort everything. They have no plans but to defeat Obama and then what? Overturn health care, gay rights, immration changes, women's rights, et al. A sad party locked in a 1950's mentality. I hope the Obama administration and Dems are finally aggressive in the response to the tax issue and in response to the extremist right wing Tea Party attacks. Finally we have national health care that every advanced society has developed. Let's improve it, not go back to no reform. Romney is the biggest "flip-flopper" hypocrite on this issue. Don't let them get away with this!

    July 3, 2012 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  2. ohio

    the repubs just can't get over this can they? It's just bothering them to pieces that they are
    having a world of trouble defending their opposition to what Obama has done-in a large
    part to regulate a terrible unregulate insurance industry that makes profit off of people's
    health care. Obscene profit! So we get it-go ahead and bicker over this little detail and that
    little detail. Is it a tax? Is it not a tax? should we be angry over a mandate? how can we be
    angry over a mandate when mittens authored the original idea? Your banter is getting really
    really stale republicans. You seem to have no interest at all in the welfare of the average American.
    The GOP is just absolutey ridiculous anymore.

    July 3, 2012 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  3. jt

    if you fail to file income taxes on time you pay a PENALTY its not a TAX increase on everybody only the late filers. So if you fail to purchase insurance on time to cover YOUR med cost, YOU pay a PENALITY, NOT EVERBODY. Just you and other uninsured.

    July 3, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  4. Rudy NYC

    "Our position is the same as Mitt Romney's position. It's a tax," Priebus said.
    -------------
    Have you ever in your life heard a more naked lie before? Just yesterday the Romney spokesman said Romney agreed with Pres. Obama that the penalty is a fine, not a tax.

    Wait a sec, though. Is the RNC going to coerce Mitt Romney into making a flip-flop on this hot button issue mere months before the general election? Common sense says do not flip-flop on such a major issue this close to Election Day. I haven't seen Republicans do anything sensible since the last century.

    July 3, 2012 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  5. ohio

    for truth hurts. I don't understand at all what is new about your comment--that has been the federal
    govt. for years. The IRS hires and furloughs occording to what they need-it's been like that for years.
    In good economic times and bad. and with Obamacare at least everyone will be paying their fair share
    or pay a penalty-i don't see at all how this "explosion" in hiring from the IRS is an issue at all.
    well-you all wanted jobs! there is another aspect of this-and guess what? Here they are!

    July 3, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Honestly, does it matter? Roberts saw that it was a tax because it was being collected by the IRS. Did you want Congress to create another agency to collect the penalty for non insurance? This is for those that choose not to have purchaced health insurance and hope that everyone else picks up the tab by hospitals needing financial support from tax payers.

    July 3, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  7. Sorensen

    Prairiebus can't help screwing everything up as usual.
    He makes even Romney look smart.

    July 3, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  8. Sorensen

    And by the way, old Romney could not lead anybody backwards out of a brown paperbag.

    July 3, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  9. once upon a horse

    this is SO funny...the GOP and Priebus came out before the ink was dry to attack the president on the mandate being a tax, then low and behold their OWN candidate comes out and says it's NOT a tax. Sorry right wingers you can't spin this anymore because if Mitt comes back and says "Oh yeah it's a tax" he might as well campaign in a nice pair of flip-flops. Meanwhile I'm sure the GOP is waiting with baited breath for the June job numbers to come out and hope they are terrible again so they can blame it on Obama. Must be a rough life there elephants.

    July 3, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. Publius Novus

    Maybe it is a tax. Maybe it is a penalty. Maybe it is a tax penalty. It is what it is. My thing is longer than yours. My dad could beat your dad up. Who cares? Why is this important? Less than 1% of Americans will have to pay it, and I say good, because I am tired of freeloaders. My thing is longer than yours. My dad could beat your dad up.

    July 3, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  11. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE/ConservaFASCISTS

    Rence, it's a tax and your a moron. Go sit in a corner with your duntz hat on and think up some more cornball attack lines. This guy makes Michael Steele look good.

    July 3, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
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