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. TexJB

    Romney does not want to call the penalty / fee a "Tax" because if he did, others would say that he raised "Taxes" while he was the governor of MA.

    July 3, 2012 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  2. MarineVet

    So, RomneyCare imposes a tax? Okay, got it. And it's only a "tax" against those that don't choose to buy health insurance, not against the entire middle class, as Repubs are falsely claiming for political points.

    July 3, 2012 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  3. BLKMANinAmerica

    Yea, and since none of the repuks have to "pay the tax" WHY on earth are they (repuks) acting as if they really give a rats pattuti? REALLY!

    July 3, 2012 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  4. Al-NY,NY

    The GOP.....is it a tax?.....YES?/NO?. Since one group says it is and the candidate says it isn't, the GOP is TOAST and will lose on this issue either way they try to portray it. Best thing for them to do (but they won't) is to drop it

    July 3, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  5. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Prince Reebus knows everything, and he knows that a fine is a tax, along with speeding taxes, parking taxes, late book taxes at libraries, Although the ACA fines, I mean taxes, may only affect less than 1% of the population, it will get the uninformed base of the right wingnut party all fired up.

    July 3, 2012 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  6. ejktexas

    If we simply repeal the entire act, we won't have to debate if it's a tax or a mandate. Only one candidate wants to get rid of it: Gary Johnson.

    July 3, 2012 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  7. s

    Poor ole Prebius doen't know the different. I guess car insurance also is a tax right Prebius. God man get a masculine name.

    July 3, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  8. Donkey Party

    No, Prince Reibus, it's a penalty, or a fine, not a tax. If you don't pay your income tax, homeowner's insurance, or auto insurance, you don't get taxed, you get a penalty, just like this.

    July 3, 2012 09:45 am at 9:45 am |
  9. B

    Fehrnstrom not only undermined the GOP's attack strategy, he completely disintegrated it.

    July 3, 2012 09:46 am at 9:46 am |
  10. sonny chapman

    Mitt explained it best when defending RomneyCare. He said it was a penalty on "Free Riders". That's usually the stuff that Repubs. eat up; but since it was Obama that proposed the Bob Dole Plan, it's EVIL.

    July 3, 2012 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  11. Namejkane fl SEND THE THREE TIME LOSER romney HOME AND MAKE IT FOUR.

    Republicans have lost their credability on all issues with all of their out right lies and signing pledges to crook lobbyist like rover nitwitquest,even romney signed it .DEMS doNT sign pledges to lobbyist,enough said,vote Dem .

    July 3, 2012 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  12. Kevin

    Renice Preibus = RNC PR BS Enough said.

    July 3, 2012 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  13. truth hurts

    Romney needs to get rid of Eric Fehrnstrom or at least get him OUT of media contact. I have seen the guy on various Sunday morning political shows and he does a horrible job. The guy doesn't know his stuff and is a poodle in a debate with a pit bull. He has better people to put out there. I believe this is the fool that gave the Obama campaign the Etch-a-Sketch quote as well. If Romney really likes to fire people who aren't providing him with good service, this is the guy to start with!! Romney better fix this problem FAST. He needs to get knowledgeable and agile pit bulls out there, not gaffe prone milk toast poodles.

    July 3, 2012 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  14. vote the Tea Party out in 2012

    Sorry Priebus but your candidate says it's NOT a tax so your rally cry is starting to fall on death ears plus that put a wet towel on your plans.

    July 3, 2012 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  15. Dennis

    When the government takes money from citizens, it's always a tax.

    July 3, 2012 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  16. truth hurts

    Isn't the IRS hiring and training 3-4,000 IRS agents to adminster Obamacare?!!! That's an awful lot of people to administer all this "not a tax" doncha think?! Of course Obama and his drones won't tell you there are also another TWENTY taxes in Obamacare amounting to $600 BILLION. Is the $500 BILLION it steals from Medicare a tax too? Yes. So $1.1 TRILLION in Obamacare taxes TO START WITH. And we ALL know they never go down, only up.

    July 3, 2012 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  17. Mikey

    It's a tax. It's not a tax. It's a tax. Make up your minds. Two things are clear. One – if it is a tax, it iscompletely avoidable for tax middle class taxpayers. Two – it is not the biggest tax in the history of the country, or the galaxy, or the universe. That is, yet again, another bald faced lie by the GOP. It is a most the 10th largest tax increase in the past few decades. When will America get sick of the GOP/Tea Party/Fox lies.

    July 3, 2012 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  18. anagram_kid

    And once again, the professional obfuscators at the GOP ignore the FACT that only people who do not have insurance, but can afford it would be paying this.

    July 3, 2012 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  19. Darryl

    Un believeable, the republicans are totally against people getting something for free. The demacrates are now makeing people responsible to buy Health Insurance so their is NO-MORE free riders. That means people who go to emergency rooms and the public have to pay for their health care.This makes no sense.The republicans are going to fight against it even though Mitt Romney their presidenaial canditate running for POTUS did this in Mass.And the people of that state not only like it but 80% are on it and it works great.And Romneys and his top political advisor both say the Obama Care is a PENALTY NOT a TAX period. The republicans better get it together and STOP the whinning and complaining nd get the people of this country back to work and stop blocking everything like they have been doing for 3 1/2 years to make President Obama a 1 term President. It is NOT going to work. Their obstruction has gone on for way to long. I guess we are going to have to vote them out of office in November when we re-elect the POTUS for his well deserved second term to continue doing the right thing for the people of this country as he has been doing.

    July 3, 2012 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  20. Indie in VA

    Do Priebus and Romney know each others' phone numbers? Do they even realize they're on the same team? At least Romney has figured out he's not going to win by perpetuating the lie that it's a tax. The Supreme Court's decision simply said it was *like* a tax enough that it could be regulated that way, and that was only so that Roberts could massage it into the special rules in the Senate for next year.

    July 3, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  21. Four and The Door

    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.
    ________________________________________________________________________________________________
    ...and this is smart. Mitt Romney is in the race to win the race. This is clear. And he is above the rigorous party line. This is a characteristic of something Mitt Romney is that our current President isn't. A leader.

    July 3, 2012 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  22. Greg in Arkansas

    Call it what you want.....but....remember, the WAR in Iraq was a TAX burden that has not been paid for yet and only benefited a few war contractors unlike the ACA which will benefit far more Americans

    July 3, 2012 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  23. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    Thank you, Mr. Redundancy (sorry, I mean Mr. Priebus). I guess the rest of us 250 million Americans didn't understand when Chief Justice Roberts stated because the penalty was collected by the IRS that it counted as a Tax. Did you have to go to school to learn how to restate the obvious, or are you just reading something provided to you by the Koch brothers or Karl Rove?

    July 3, 2012 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. keeth

    Supreme Court rules Romneycare penalty a tax!

    July 3, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  25. Governor 47th in Job Creation (excluding jobs off-shored to China)

    Well if Rinse Prius says so, then it must be so. That makes Willard THE taxman in MA. He levied the largest middle class tax increase in the history of the bay state! Sound familiar???
    Willard is the king of taxes. Previously all of the MA residents were lied to: he told us they were fees. Shame on Willard, may he go confess to Grover.

    July 3, 2012 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
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