July 5th, 2012
10:18 AM ET
2 years ago

Obama spox: President disagrees with Court on 'tax'

(CNN) – President Barack Obama's campaign spokesman said Thursday that Obama disagrees with the Supreme Court's characterization of his health care law's individual mandate as a tax.

Ben LaBolt, appearing on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," said Obama still believes the fee assessed to people who choose not to obtain health insurance should be classified as a "penalty" rather than a "tax."

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"You saw our arguments before the Supreme Court," LaBolt said. "You see what the president has said over the past several years that it's a penalty for that 1% of the population who can afford health insurance but hasn't chosen to get it."

Asked whether Obama "disagrees with the Supreme Court decision that says it's now a tax," LaBolt said "that's right."

"He's said it was a penalty," LaBolt continued. "You saw our arguments before the court."

LaBolt asserted that the government's lawyers never argued the penalty for not obtaining insurance was a "tax," despite the Court's ruling that it could only be upheld under Congress' taxation powers.

"At no point did any of the government lawyers say it was a tax," LaBolt said, arguing the Obama team was being consistent in comparison to their GOP rivals.

Following the Court's ruling, many Republicans immediately pointed to the "tax" argument as evidence the president had raised taxes on the middle class. Obama's rival for the White House, however, was initially slow to label the mandate a "tax." A senior adviser for Mitt Romney, who initiated a similar provision while governor of Massachusetts, labeled the fee a "penalty" earlier this week.

On Wednesday Romney made clear he viewed the penalty as a "tax," contradicting his adviser, and that it represented a broken pledge by Obama to not raise taxes on the middle class.

In transcripts of the case's oral arguments, however, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli very clearly indicated the individual mandate could be viewed as constitutional under Congress' powers of taxation.

Verrilli said the fee "is administered by the IRS, it is paid on your Form 1040 on April 15th."

Asked by associate justice Samuel Alito "can the mandate be viewed as a tax," Verrilli responded "I think it could."

Romney's campaign was quick to respond to LaBolt's comments Thursday.

"In a curious development, President Obama apparently disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling upholding his health care law. It's too bad he doesn't also see that Obamacare is bad policy and bad law. On day one of his presidency, Mitt Romney will begin the process of repealing and replacing Obamacare," Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg wrote.

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Filed under: President Obama • Supreme Court
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. sally27

    OK ! if Obama disagrees with the Supreme Court ruling . We go back to the fact that Obamacare is UN-Constitutional and should be repealed. It's a TAX or REPEAL IT ! Can't have it both ways.

    July 5, 2012 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  2. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE/ConservaFASCISTS

    Penalty or a tax, frankly I don't care. It's time for people to start mooching off of the system and passing the bill onto us. Take individual responsibility. Isn't that a conservative principle?

    July 5, 2012 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  3. Darryl

    It is a Penalty that is under the provision of the IRS can be collected by the IRS who collects Taxes just likr the State Franchise Tax Board here in California.The Republican Hertiage Foundation Invented it, the conservatives promoted it,the conservatives implemented it ( Romney ) the conservatives ( Chief Justice Roberts ) up-held it and now the republicans denounce it ?This is INSANITY !!! I guess it is true that the GOP is out to Destroy President Obama if he is attached to anything at all. All their obstruction to getting the American people back to work and on its feet is something they should be ashamed of period. This November ? President Obama will absolutely be re-elected.No question about it !

    July 5, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  4. Two Of AKind -

    Of COURSE he disagrees NOW that he's got the support he wanted!

    Obama swore, when questioned by the GOP, that Obamacare was NOT a tax. Quite simply,he lied. The SCOTUS scrutinized the plan and declared the truth -it IS a tax. Obama has been truly caught in the trap of his own dishonesty!
    Period!

    July 5, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  5. Rudy NYC

    When you break a certain law, sometimes you are charged a penaly, a fine, a fee, but it is not called a tax. Just because the IRS may collect it does not necessarily mean that the penalty is a tax. After all, even the IRS has "late penalty fees" for when you don't pay your federal income taxes on time.

    July 5, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  6. al in memphis

    It's too bad he doesn't also see that Obamacare is bad policy and bad law. On day one of his presidency, Mitt Romney will begin the process of repealing and replacing Obamacare,

    ________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Replacing it with what–the notion that people are willing to buy health insurance because it cheaper if you can buy it across state lines is ludicrous They can already get emergency care for free so why pay money to haggle with insurance companies about what you can do. Young, healthy people don't go out a buy life insurance because they don't think many opportunities to use it will come along.
    So that leaves you with a system where those who need it for treatment or need it because it the responsible thing to to do for your family will have to pay for everyone. An everyone includes the out of control profit margins the insurance companies, hospital management companies, and drug companies, etc. Do you think anyone from this group wants reform?

    July 5, 2012 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  7. sonnie3

    IRS is involved, Then it is a TAX,
    Because it is manditory as it has been set in force by obama and the democrats
    One of the largest TAX increases in American History
    One of the Biggest Power Grabs by Government Officials

    July 5, 2012 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  8. ThinkAgain

    @sally27: "We go back to the fact that Obamacare is UN-Constitutional and should be repealed."

    We got back to the fact that you know nothing about how our government is set up and works. The Supreme Court decides constitutionality – and it decided Obama IS constitutional.

    And some folks wonder why you GOPers are so easily manipulated into voting against your own self-interest! Sheesh!

    July 5, 2012 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  9. Dave

    Of course Obama does. Because that implies that he passed the bill with misleading information. Of course, that is exactly what happened to this bill that did not permit public oversight of debates and did require billions in earmarks.

    July 5, 2012 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  10. ThinkAgain

    in another CNN article, Mittens is quoted as saying that if elected POTUS, he would nominate only Supreme Court Justices that rubber-stamped the GOP party lines regarding policy.

    Pathetic how Mittens not only doesn't understand the concept of an independent judiciary, he wants to turn our country into a dictatorship!

    Obama/Biden 2012 = Because the Supreme Court matters

    July 5, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  11. hypatia

    Oh please! Don't make me laugh!

    July 5, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  12. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    When did Obama EVER say it was a tax? The Supreme Court ruled that it was. Aren't they a different branch of government?

    July 5, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  13. FLIndependent

    All you Repubs arguing over semantics are being utterly ridiculous. Justice Roberts knew it was constitutional all along since there have been previous cases that would uphold it, but had to find a way to justify his decision. Using the word "tax" obviously gave the Repubs a talking point and a further way to distort the truth about the "penalty" which only applies to those who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it. It's managed by the IRS but isn't even enforceable. Also, for the Repubs to denounce something that was their idea just to discredit President Obama isn't going to wash and most of us can see right through their motives. They are being childish, irresponsible, reprehensible and will lose in 2012 – bet on it!!! FORWARD 2012!!

    July 5, 2012 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  14. Enough is Enough

    Not sure it matters what it's called. What really matters is that we can't afford our existing entitlements so Obama ads a fourth. The man is crazy and will destroy our country if he gets four more.

    July 5, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  15. GROVER NORQUIST IS A ENEMY OF THE STATE/ConservaFASCISTS

    *correction* I meant, "STOP mooching off of the system."

    July 5, 2012 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. Vintagedog

    I couldn't care less what they call it! Obamakova is hitting our wallets from every direction possible, and for me, this election comes down to ONE THING! It's between a promise maker that fails to complete his promises, and a business man that has taken failing companies and turned them profitable again. Which one does our Country NEED? Look around you and decide for yourself which one we need! Any person with ANY common sense won't need to watch ANY political ads to come to an INTELLIGENT decision! Simple as that.

    July 5, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  17. Steve in CT

    If you don't pay your taxes on time, you pay a penalty. They don't call it a tax. If you don't buy insurance, you pay a penalty. It is not the "Largest Tax Increase in History" as noted by that great economist, Rush Limbaugh. It is about as half as big as the Reagan Tax increase of 1982. That qualified as the largest peacetime tax increase, ever.

    July 5, 2012 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  18. Fair is Fair

    "When you break a certain law, sometimes you are charged a penaly, a fine, a fee, but it is not called a tax. Just because the IRS may collect it does not necessarily mean that the penalty is a tax. After all, even the IRS has "late penalty fees" for when you don't pay your federal income taxes on time."
    -----
    SCOTUS said it was a tax. They were quite clear that the ONLY way the court would uphold this boondoggle is under congress' authority to TAX. You're examples are false equivalences. Well, outside of Rudyworld anyway.

    July 5, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  19. Fair is Fair

    "If you don't pay your taxes on time, you pay a penalty. They don't call it a tax. If you don't buy insurance, you pay a penalty. It is not the "Largest Tax Increase in History"
    -----–
    Why was Obama's solicitor General instructed to bring up the arguement that it was INDEED a tax in the oral arguements before the court?

    July 5, 2012 11:41 am at 11:41 am |
  20. mjw

    Penalty is applied to someone who does not comply with the law, a tax is applied to everyone. The SCOTUS did not say it was a tax it falls under the umbrella. If you run a red light and get ticked by a cop, it is a penalty and not a tax but it falls in the same category. The majority of people understands it is not a tax as much as the GOP/TP tries to distort the truth. They want to confuse people but we are more intelligent than they think except for those Faux viewers.

    July 5, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  21. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    @RUDY NYC
    Say it again and say it LOUDER.

    July 5, 2012 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  22. Drew

    Obama had his lawyers argue it was a tax when it went to the supreme court. But before and now after he says it is not a tax. If you vote for Obama you must understand that the man is as dishonest as politicians come.

    July 5, 2012 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  23. Paqrat137

    Tax or penalty? Who cares? It for the 1% of the population that cause the other 99% to pay more for health care (or whatever % you want). Let me ask you, you are 1 of 100 people on line at the supermarket, the first person on line has a basket full of groceries, the cashier rings it up and the customer doesn't have the money to pay for it, but the supermarket is not allowed to not give him the groceries. So, the 99 of you behind him are told, not asked, to pay for them, over and above your own. Do you find that fair? This is what is happening now in our health care. If Customer #1 know he had to pay a tax/penalty for not being able to afford groceries, don;t you think he'd rahte carry the necesary requirements to pay for them? Don;t you think that he should?

    July 5, 2012 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  24. Sniffit

    "One of the largest TAX increases in American History"

    It's actually TINY. The numbers prove that. CBO's projections of how much revenue the penalty for failing to get insurance will generate indicates it would amount to a tax increase of 0.029%. That's miniscule compared to much simpler and straight forward blatant tax increases handed to us by Reagan, Bush 1 and Clinton. But hey, thanks for playing False Talking Point Vomit in the Teatroll Big Top...you can haz this giant Tootsie Roll as a consolation prize.

    July 5, 2012 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  25. ST

    So long as people agree that they need Affordable Health Care Reform, something has to be done in order to make it function. Whether it is by paying penalty or tax, that is not what matters. What matters is to get what they need.

    July 5, 2012 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |