Romney reverses aide on healthcare 'tax'

July 4, 2012 at 4:08 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 4 (UPI) -- Likely Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney reversed an aide's statement and told CBS News Wednesday that the individual healthcare mandate is a "tax."

The individual mandate in the federal healthcare reform law, which requires everyone who can afford it to buy some kind of health insurance or pay a penalty, was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 5-4 vote. The majority, led by Chief Justice John Roberts, said the mandate penalty for failing to buy insurance was constitutional under Congress' taxing power.

"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's a tax, and therefore it is a tax," Romney told CBS. "They have spoken. There's no way around that."

Four of the court's conservatives said the law should be struck down..

"I said that I agreed with the dissent, and the dissent made it very clear that they felt it was unconstitutional," Romney told CBS in the exclusive interview. "But the dissent lost -- it's in the minority."

Romney's own healthcare law in Massachusetts includes an individual mandate and penalty, but Romney has said states can levy the tax under their "police powers."

Roberts recognized in his majority opinion the long-held doctrine that the states have "police powers" allowing them to do everything not forbidden by the U.S. Constitution -- using that power to "perform many of the vital functions of modern government -- punishing street crime, running public schools and zoning property for development, to name but a few."

CBS said Romney's statements contradict "a backpedaling maneuver" Monday by Romney senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom. The Romney campaign initially contended the mandate penalty is a massive tax increase on Americans.

But Fehrnstrom told MSNBC Romney "agreed with the dissent written by Justice Scalia which very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax."

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