RNC Chairman Reince Priebus disagreed with his party’s presumptive presidential nominee during an appearance on CNN’s Starting Point Tuesday morning and said that the individual mandate at the heart of President Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s health care laws is, in fact, a tax. “The Supreme Court has stated that Obamacare is a tax and so since they have ruled that it’s a tax, it is a tax,” Priebus said, contradicting Romney’s top adviser, who on Monday insisted that the governor believes that the mandate is a penalty.
“Our position is the same as Mitt Romney’s position, it’s a tax, that’s the only way the Supreme Court came up with the decision it did, in order to make it constitutional,” the chairman claimed:
BROOKE BALDWIN (HOST): But it sounds like the Romney campaign says it was a penalty. I’m asking you specifically, Republican National Committee Chairman, tax or penalty, which is it?
PRIEBUS: It’s a tax and the reason why it’s a tax is because the Supreme Court number one ruled it was a tax and number two, it’s what Barack Obama’s lawyer argued before the Supreme Court.
Since Romney’s Massachusetts health reform law penalizes individuals who choose to go without insurance, the Romney campaign has said that the governor disagrees with the Supreme Court’s majority decision and agrees with the dissent, which found the mandate unconstitutional under the commerce clause. The mandate provision has successfully expanded coverage in Massachusetts by encouraging healthier and younger people to obtain insurance (who then avoid paying the penalty).
Republicans in Congress, and even some top Romney surrogates, however, are still holding on to the “tax” talking point. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), who may be on Romney’s vice presidential short list, told Fox News’ Fox & Friends Tuesday morning that the mandate is both a “penalty” and a “tax,” something Romney himself has previously claimed.