Romney on Obamacare: 'It's a Tax and It's Constitutional;' Romneycare Was a 'Penalty,' And It's Constitutional, Too

Melanie Arter | July 6, 2012 | 11:00am EDT
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FILE - In this June 28, 2012 file photo, with the Capitol in the background, Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks in Washington. A day after the Supreme Court's landmark ruling, Romney said the high court's decision to uphold President Barack Obama's health care overhaul has created new urgency in the presidential contest. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

( - Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney told CBS's "This Morning" on Thursday that the Supreme Court has ruled that Obamacare is a tax, "so it's a tax," while the health care mandate he signed into law as governor of Massachusetts is a "penalty."

Romney said both Obamacare and Romneycare should now be considered constitutional.

"The Supreme Court has the final word, and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax. So it's a tax. They decided it was constitutional, so it's a tax and it's constitutional. That's the final word. That's what it is," Romney said.

"Now, I agree with the dissent--I would have taken a different course, but the dissent wasn't in the majority. The majority has ruled, and their rule is final," he said.

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"But does that mean that the mandate in the state of Massachusetts under your health care law also is a tax--and that you raised taxes as governor?" CBS News chief political correspondent Jan Crawford asked.

Romney said he and the Massachusetts legislature described the mandate in his health care law as 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. They don't need or 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," Romney said.

"Whatever it's called--whether it's a penalty, whether it's a tax, it means that Americans--if they don't have insurance--are going to pay something, whatever they call it," said Crawford.

"You know, I made it very clear throughout my campaign, and actually while I was governor of Massachusetts, that the issue of the uninsured should be dealt with at the state level, and each state can create their own solutions to meet the needs of their people," Romney replied.

The Massachusetts health care law, which was enacted in 2006, mandates that every resident obtain a minimum level of health care insurance coverage that is regulated by the state government. It also subsidizes health insurance for people earning up to 300 percent of the poverty level.

According to Romney's web site, he plans to issue an executive order "that paves the way for the federal government to issue Obamacare waivers" to the states on his first day in office and then work with Congress to repeal Obamacare "as quickly as possible." In its place, Romney plans to "pursue policies that give each state the power to craft a health care reform plan that is best for its own citizens."

In his opinion on Obamacare, Chief Justice Roberts conceded that the Obamacare law called the "penalty" for not buying mandated health insurance a "penalty" not a "tax." Having conceded that, Roberts argued in one part of his opinion that this "penalty" should be treated as a "penalty" and in another part that it should be treated as a "tax." He then concluded that it was constitutional for the federal government to force people to buy health insurance so long as they enforced this mandate with a "tax" not a "penalty."


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