President Obama, during a campaign stop in a Toledo, Ohio suburb Thursday, declared victory in the legal battle over his health care law.
“The law I passed is here to stay,” he said to thunderous applause from supporters, his most declarative statement since the Supreme Court narrowly rejected a challenge to the law a week ago.
Although the statement was the closest thing to Mr. Obama spiking the football over the Supreme Court’s decision, the president and his team are still struggling over the semantics of interpreting the high court’s decision that the heart of the law was a a tax.
The campaigns of Mr. Obama and GOP rival Mitt Romney have taken turns stumbling over whether to agree with the court’s tax finding.
The issue has been particularly vexing for Mr. Romney because he signed an individual health care insurance mandate into state law as governor of Massachusetts. Early this week, a top Romney aide agreed with the Obama campaign that the mandate was a penalty rather than a tax, to be consistent with Mr. Romney’s insistence that he did not raise taxes during his time running the state.
But on Wednesday, Mr. Romney said the Obama health care mandate did indeed amount to a tax because the Supreme Court had ruled it so.
In the wake of high court’s decision, Republicans have seized on the mandate-as-tax issue to pummel the president for raising taxes on the middle class.
On Thursday, it was Mr. Obama’s turn to play defense on the issue. Both the White House press secretary and Obama’s campaign spokesman said the president does not think the mandate is a tax, contradicting Mr. Obama’s top constitutional lawyer, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who argued to the Supreme Court that the mandate could be justified as under Congress’s power to tax.