- The Washington Times - Friday, June 29, 2012

Disputing the Supreme Court’s characterization of the individual mandate in the health-care law as a tax, the White House Friday still chose to call it a “penalty” that people would be required to pay for not carrying insurance.

“It’s a penalty because you have a choice,” said White House press secretary Jay Carney. “You don’t have a choice to pay your taxes, right?”

He said consumers who can afford health insurance will have a choice to buy it, or pay the government. Payments would go to the IRS, which collects taxes.

“You can call it what you want,” Mr. Carney told reporters traveling with the president aboard Air Force One. “If you read the [court’s] opinion, it is not a broad-based tax. It is not something that you assess like an income tax.”


A day after the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act on the reasoning that Congress has the authority to impose taxes, the White House offered other rationales to try to contain the political fallout of imposing an estimated $675 billion in new taxes over the next 10 years. Mr. Carney, referring to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, said the new costs would affect only 1 percent of the population.

He also noted that 18 million middle-class citizens would receive tax cuts from the law, and that the “penalty” is modeled on the health care reform law passed by presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts.

Republicans have seized on the court’s ruling, written by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., saying that Mr. Obama misled the public during the health-care debate by claiming that the mandate is not a tax. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Friday that the law was approved through “deception.”

“For years, the president and his Democrat allies in Congress have sworn up and down that failing to comply with the individual mandate did not result in a tax on individuals or families,” Mr. McConnell said. “Well, yesterday the court blew the president’s cover. According to the CBO, at least 77 percent of the people paying this tax will meet the president’s own definition of middle class. It’s time for Democrats to stop trying to defend the indefensible and join Republicans in wiping this colossal legislative mistake clear off the books.”

Conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh called the individual mandate “the largest tax increase in the history of the world,” and Republicans have served notice they intend to campaign on the issue.

A top surrogate of the Obama campaign, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, also told reporters the individual mandate is not a tax.

“Don’t believe the hype that the other side is selling,” Mr. Patrick said. “This is a penalty. It’s about dealing with the freeloaders.”