Earlier this week, Mitt Romney’s top campaign adviser broke with the entire Republican party and insisted that the individual mandate at the center of the Affordable Care Act and Massachusetts’ 2006 health care law is “not a tax.” “The governor disagreed with the ruling of the Court. He agreed with the dissent, which was written by Justice Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax,” Eric Fehrnstrom told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd.
But on Wednesday, in another sign that the Romney campaign doesn’t appear to speak for its candidate, Romney told CBS News that he agrees both with the Supreme Court’s dissent striking down the law and also its majority opinion upholding the mandate as a tax:
Q: Do you now believe that it is a tax at the federal level, that the Supreme Court has said it’s a tax, so it is a tax?
ROMNEY: Well, I said that I agreed with the dissent. And the dissent made it very clear that they felt it was unconstitutional. But the dissent lost — it’s in the minority. And so now the Supreme Court has spoken. And while I agreed with the dissent, that’s taken over by the fact that the majority of the Court said it is a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken. There is no way around that.
Republicans have seized on the Supreme Court’s decision to claim that the mandate is a “massive tax hike” on the middle class, labeling it the “largest tax increase in history.” But Romney — who instituted a similar requirement in Massachusetts — insisted as governor that the penalty is a way to discourage free-riders, though he has previously referred to the penalty as a “tax” penalty.
Earlier this week, Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul claimed “Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty.” Today, it’s clear that Romney disagrees.
Romney shook hands as he marched in the Wolfeboro, N.H. Fourth of July parade and again agreed that the mandate is a tax:
Romney also tried to argue that while Obama’s mandate is a “tax” his own virtually identical provision is a penalty. “Actually the chief justice in his opinion made it very clear that at the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates,” Romney replied. “They don’t need to require them to be called taxes in order for them to be constitutional. And as a result, Massachusetts’ mandate was a mandate, was a penalty, was described that way by the legislature and by me, and so it stays as it was.” He has, however, previously described the Massachusetts mandate as a tax.