TIME's Michael Crowley on how the average voter will view the changes in messaging on the health care mandate.
Mitt Romney is now saying that the health care law mandate is a tax after all and not a penalty. But it could present new problems for his campaign because he is contradicting his top strategist. On Wednesday, he explained his stance to CNN's Dana Bash while campaigning in New Hampshire.
"The Supreme Court has the final word, isn't that the highest court in the land? And they said it was a tax? It is a tax, of course, if that's what they said," Romney says.
Earlier this week his top advisor Eric Fehrnstrom said that Romney actually agreed with President Obama that the mandate was not a tax. Romney's new message falls in line with Republican attacks against the President promising voters he wouldn't raise taxes.
Alice Stewart, Republican strategist and fmr. press secretary for Rick Santorum Presidential Campaign, tells Soledad on "Starting Point" that Romney has been 'quite clear' that the health care mandate is a tax, and reiterates that the plan passed in Mass. is not a plan that would work on a federal level.
See more from the interview in the clip below. Transcript available after the jump.
(CNN) – President Barack Obama's campaign spokesman said Thursday that Obama disagrees with the Supreme Court's characterization of his health care law's individual mandate as a tax.
Ben LaBolt, appearing on CNN's "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien," said Obama still believes the fee assessed to people who choose not to obtain health insurance should be classified as a "penalty" rather than a "tax."
"You saw our arguments before the Supreme Court," LaBolt said. "You see what the president has said over the past several years that it's a penalty for that 1% of the population who can afford health insurance but hasn't chosen to get it."
Asked whether Obama "disagrees with the Supreme Court decision that says it's now a tax," LaBolt said "that's right."
"He's said it was a penalty," LaBolt continued. "You saw our arguments before the court."
LaBolt asserted that the government's lawyers never argued the penalty for not obtaining insurance was a "tax," despite the Court's ruling that it could only be upheld under Congress' taxation powers.
"At no point did any of the government lawyers say it was a tax," LaBolt said, arguing the Obama team was being consistent in comparison to their GOP rivals.
Following the Court's ruling, many Republicans immediately pointed to the "tax" argument as evidence the president had raised taxes on the middle class. Obama's rival for the White House, however, was initially slow to label the mandate a "tax." A senior adviser for Mitt Romney, who initiated a similar provision while governor of Massachusetts, labeled the fee a "penalty" earlier this week.
On Wednesday Romney made clear he viewed the penalty as a "tax," contradicting his adviser, and that it represented a broken pledge by Obama to not raise taxes on the middle class.
In transcripts of the case's oral arguments, however, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli very clearly indicated the individual mandate could be viewed as constitutional under Congress' powers of taxation.
Verrilli said the fee "is administered by the IRS, it is paid on your Form 1040 on April 15th."
Asked by associate justice Samuel Alito "can the mandate be viewed as a tax," Verrilli responded "I think it could."
Obama Campaign national press secretary Ben LaBolt says President Obama maintains the health care mandate is a penalty.
In the additional clip below, CNN contributor Ryan Lizza challenges LaBolt's claim that the tax argument was not mentioned in the SCOTUS case.
Washington (CNN) – A group of nuns who took to the road 2,700 miles ago reached Washington Monday carrying the same message they began with: "Reasonable revenue for responsible programs."
Standing in front of the United Methodist Building near the U.S. Capitol, the "Nuns on the Bus," as they have billed themselves, rallied an excited crowd with stories from the road and a call to action for future protests to protect social programs. Starting in Iowa, the nuns traveled through nine different states in a trip ended right outside the Capitol building.
The group announced in June that they would be taking their message to the road and specifically called out Wisconsin Republican Rep. Paul Ryan for his proposed $3.53 trillion budget that looks to overhaul Medicare and other government programs. The nuns say it undermines Catholic teachings because it cuts social services.
NETWORK executive director Sister Simone Campbell relays on "Starting Point" says on her trip she noticed there's a "great hunger in our nation for a different way of being." She says everyone they met agreed with the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act.
"This is way bigger than a political campaign," Sister Campbell says. "This is a campaign for the soul of our democracy. And what we need to be responsible as people in the United States is people of faith, but as all people in our country that we need to be responsible. We need to raise revenue and we need to protect responsible programs like we saw all over the country."
Mitt Romney's campaign and the Republican Party seem to be conflicting messages here about what happens when it comes to the specific issue in the health care legislation, this law here. Romney senior campaign adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom recently contradicted the Republican Party's core line of attack on health care by calling the individual mandate to buy health insurance a penalty and not a tax. In fact, he says Romney is siding with President Obama on the mandate.
The Romney campaign issued a statement, saying "the Supreme Court left President Obama with two choices. The federal individual mandate in Obamacare is either a constitutional tax or an unconstitutional penalty. Governor Romney thinks it is an unconstitutional penalty. What is President Obama's position? Is his federal mandate unconstitutional or is it a tax?"
Could this mixed message create a problem for Republicans who are trying now to demonstrate that President Obama did in fact break his promise not to raise taxes?
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebushe this morning explains that in the RNC's view, the health care mandate is a tax, and reiterates that most Americans are not in favor of the Affordable Care Act.
"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," Priebus tells Brooke Baldwin on "Starting Point with Soledad O'Brien. "The crux of the issue is most Republicans and I think most independents don't believe that Obamacare should have been ruled constitutional."
"People don't want Europe in America and I think the solution to that is firing Barack Obama and putting Mitt Romney in office," Priebus adds.
Watch more from the interview in the clip below. Transcript available after the jump.
Republicans are gearing up for their latest fight to take down the health care law.
House GOP leaders are planning a vote next week to repeal the legislation, although the move will be largely symbolic because the repeal will likely never pass the Senate, where Democrats are in the majority.
On Starting Point this morning, Rep. Marsha Blackburn explains why she opposes the law and responds to recent polling that suggests that a growing number of Americans support specific parts of the legislation.
Republicans are taking their message to repeal the president's health care law straight to the American people.
GOP leaders blanketed the Sunday talk shows, insisting that the Supreme Court's ruling will not stop their efforts to bring down the law.
However, when pressed on what measure's they'd introduce to replace the health care legislation, many were vague, offering few concrete solutions.
On Starting Point today, Rep. Tom Price discusses Supreme Court Chief Justice Roberts' decision and explains why he thinks that the health care law is problematic.
The new precedent set by the Supreme Court's ruling on the individual mandate could affect future laws passed by Congress.
Gregory Katsas, a former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas who argued against the health care law, appears on Starting Point this morning to discuss the implications of the Court's decision.
“I was surprised and disappointed of course at the result,” Katsas tells Soledad.
Chief Justice Roberts’ swing vote on the law was an unexpected twist to the ruling, considering that he tends to lean conservative.
Katsas explains that he believes Roberts upheld the statue only by “turning it into something very different.”
Watch the clip above for more from Soledad’s interview with Katsas on Starting Point.
On Starting Point this morning, Stephanie Cutter, Obama's deputy campaign manager, responds to calls by Republican lawmakers to repeal the president's health care legislation and explains why the campaign believes that the individual mandate is a penalty.