Mitt Romney campaign adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said the governor disagrees with Republicans’ claim that the individual mandate is a “tax,” contradicting the party message since the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had authority to mandate people purchase insurance under the taxing power.
“The governor disagreed with the ruling of the Court,” Fehrnstrom said, “he agreed with the dissent, which was written by Justice Scalia, which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax”:
TODD: The governor does not believe the mandate is a tax — that’s what you’re saying?
FEHRNSTROM: The governor believes what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty and he disagrees with the Court’s ruling that the mandate was a tax. […]
TODD: But he agrees with the president that it is not — and he believes that you should not call the tax penalty a tax, you should call it a penalty or a fee or a fine?
FEHRNSTROM: That’s correct. But the president also needs to be held accountable for his contradictory statements. He has described it variously as a penalty and as a tax. He needs to reconcile those two very different statements.
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 and is not a new tax on families.
Greg Sargent notes that Romney himself has referred to the penalty as a “tax” penalty.