WASHINGTON -- The White House is telling Democrats to go on offense over health care and taxes.
That's after the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act Thursday, finding that the penalty against people who ignore the mandate to buy health insurance when they can afford it is actually a tax.
The GOP was quick to seize on that finding in an effort to turn it against Democrats. The National Republican Congressional Committee on Friday declared the health care law a "big f*cking tax," in mockery of Vice President Joe Biden, who famously called passage of the law a BFD.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made it the subject of his Friday morning floor speech.
"In the eyes of the court, that's all that the penalty tied to the individual mandate ever was: a tax imposed by a Democrat Congress, primarily on the middle class," McConnell said. "And let's be very clear about that: The tax connected to the individual mandate is not primarily a tax on the rich but on the middle-class Americans who will bear the brunt of it."
With that chorus rising -- and in a sign that Democrats are sensitive that the attacks could be effective -- White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe sent a memo to Democrats on the Hill urging them to turn it to their advantage.
"We welcome this debate on middle class taxes, and we urge you to seize this opportunity to go on offense to illustrate how the President and Democrats in Congress are standing up for the middle class," Plouffe said, before enumerating how he sees the tax cuts enacted by President Barack Obama, versus proposals by the GOP that a recent report said would help the rich:
- President Obama has cut taxes by $3,600 for the typical middle class family. Republican plans will raise taxes on middle class families to give millionaires and billionaires a $250,000 tax cut.
- The facts are clear: the health care law provides a significant tax cut averaging about $4,000 for more than 18 million middle class people and families -- a tax cut Republicans in Washington are vowing to repeal, socking it to the middle class once again.
- For those that can afford health insurance but stay uninsured -- forcing the rest of us to subsidize their care for free -- a penalty is administered. This is estimated by the CBO to affect 1 percent of the population. It is modeled on the health reform Governor Romney signed into law, where less than 1 percent have been affected by the Massachusetts penalty.
Plouffe moved on to the Democrats' new mantra stemming from the ruling, which is that the health care debate is now settled, and it's time to move on to jobs and the economy, rather than rehash 2009 and 2010.
"The last thing Congress should do is refight old political battles and start over on health care by raising taxes on the middle class and repealing the entire law," Plouffe said, echoing talking points used by Senate Democrats on Thursday.
He also cast it in the familiar terms of the Republicans pulling for the wealthy.
"On every issue -- from reducing the deficit in a balanced way to paying for investments in education -- Republicans refuse to ask the wealthy to pay their fair share all while cutting the investments we need to grow the middle class," Plouffe said. "In fact, Republicans in Congress have voted to preserve tax breaks for big oil and cut taxes for millionaires by 25 percent. And they'll pay for that by ending Medicare as we know it and raising taxes on the middle class."