Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) backed up a top Mitt Romney adviser -- and the Obama administration -- on Wednesday, saying he does not personally believe the individual mandate at the heart of the Affordable Care Act is a tax. But now that the Supreme Court has ruled that it is one, he believes it's fair game as a political attack.
"The Supreme Court said it was a tax. I don't think it was a tax,” Lee told CNSNews.com. “Congress didn’t think it was a tax. The president assured us that it wasn't a tax. There's nothing about the text or the structure of the Affordable Care Act that suggests it was a tax. But the Supreme Court concluded that it was."
Lee's stance isn't entirely surprising, since he once served as a clerk for Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, who was part of the dissent that ruled that individual mandate was unconstitutional, period. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, ruled that the mandate was constitutional not under the Commerce Clause but under Congress' power to levy taxes.
It's also in line with statements made by top Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on Monday, when he said the campaign believes that not complying with the mandate results in a penalty, not a tax.
Nevertheless, Lee used the Supreme Court's definition to attack President Barack Obama last week, arguing on Fox News immediately after the court's ruling that he had raised taxes.
"[M]ost Americans who don’t like the individual mandate already will like it even less when they understand that it's a tax," said Lee. "This is a huge boon to the campaign of Mitt Romney. The American people will be flocking around him saying, we don't want new taxes. We especially don't want new taxes on the poor, and that’s what this does."
The rest of the Republican Party is largely staying on message and attacking Obama as a tax-raiser. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another prominent Romney surrogate, said the mandate was a tax during an interview on "Fox and Friends" on Tuesday morning.
Romney's signature health care reform legislation in Massachusetts also had an individual mandate, which could be construed as a tax. But defining that law as containing a tax increase is something the presumptive GOP presidential nominee wants to avoid.
Lee's spokesman told CNSNews.com that Obama is the one in the "pickle."
"If it's a tax, then he’s raising taxes on people," Lee's spokesman said. "If it's not a tax, then it’s unconstitutional."
Speaker John Boehner
"Today, in upholding the Affordable Care Act, the Supreme Court has shown that, even at a time when Washington seems to have reached a new level of dysfunction, there remains a respect for the rule of law, for precedent, and for the ability of Congress to legislate on matters that affect the American people," Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said in a statement. "By not caving in to the most craven political calls, it appears the Court has stood by more than 70 years of legal precedent to ensure that: some 32 million Americans will have access to health insurance; we stop the unnecessary deaths of 42,000 Americans annually who die simply because they lack health insurance; insurers can no longer deny a child health care because of pre-existing conditions; millions of young adults receive coverage on their parents' plans until age 26; insurers can no longer impose lifetime limits on coverage; millions of Americans receive free preventive care; and, seniors save billions of dollars on prescription drugs. "The Affordable Care Act will now assume its rightful place, along with Social Security and Medicare, as powerful testimony to what our nation can achieve to benefit the lives of all Americans. Today's decision will, I truly hope, put to rest the partisan attacks from the Right against the law and many of its provisions. Republicans have threatened to continue their attempts to repeal these provisions, but let us all hope that they will respect the Court's ruling and put the health and wellbeing of the American people ahead of insurance companies."
"Today's decision makes one thing clear: Congress must act to repeal this misguided law," said Sen. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. "Obamacare has not only limited choices and increased health care costs for American families, it has made it harder for American businesses to hire. Today's decision does nothing to diminish the fact that Obamacare's mandates, tax hikes, and Medicare cuts should be repealed and replaced with common sense reforms that lower costs and that the American people actually want. It is my hope that with new leadership in the White House and Senate, we can enact these step-by-step solutions and prevent further damage from this terrible law."
Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)
Republican Governors Association Chairman Bob McDonnell issued the following statement regarding the Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: "Today's ruling crystallizes all that's at stake in November's election. The only way to stop Barack Obama's budget-busting health care takeover is by electing a new president. Barack Obama's health care takeover encapsulates his Presidency: Obamacare increases taxes, grows the size of government and puts bureaucrats over patients while doing nothing to improve the economy. It's never been more important that we elect a President who understands the marketplace and will make job creation his top priority. By replacing Barack Obama with Mitt Romney, we will not only stop the federal government's healthcare takeover, but will also take a giant step towards a full economic recovery."
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)
"Dr. Coburn will be reviewing the ruling and will respond with an updated plan to repeal and replace this unworkable law. The Court affirmed Congress' power to tax people if they don't eat their broccoli. Now it's up to the American people to decide whether they will tolerate this obscene abuse of individual liberty," said John Hart, a spokesman for Sen. Coburn.
RNC Chair Reince Preibus
"Today's Supreme Court decision sets the stakes for the November election. Now, the only way to save the country from ObamaCare's budget-busting government takeover of health care is to elect a new president," said RNC Chairman Reince Priebus. "Under President Obama's signature legislation, health care costs continue to skyrocket, and up to 20 million Americans could lose their employer-based coverage. A panel of unelected bureaucrats now has the unprecedented authority to come between elderly patients and their doctors. Meanwhile, the rules and regulations placed on job creators and small businesses make it nearly impossible to hire new workers at a time when Americans desperately need jobs. "We need market-based solutions that give patients more choice, not less. The answer to rising health care costs is not, and will never be, Big Government. "We must elect a president who understands the economy, respects free enterprise, and can provide the leadership we now so desperately need. On Election Day, we must elect Mitt Romney and put America on the path toward a brighter economic future and successful health care reform."
Rep. W Todd Akin
Rep. Keith Ellison
Gov. Bobby Jindal
Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) released the following statement on the Supreme Court ruling on the President's health care law: "The Supreme Court's decision to uphold ObamaCare is a crushing blow to patients throughout the country. ObamaCare has failed to keep the President's basic promise of allowing those who like their health care to keep it, while increasing costs and reducing access to quality care for patients. In this tough economy, jobs and economic growth are on the minds of most Americans, but ObamaCare has increased uncertainty for small businessmen and women and forced them to put their hiring decisions on hold. "During the week of July 9th, the House will once again repeal ObamaCare, clearing the way for patient-centered reforms that lower costs and increase choice. We support an approach that offers simpler, more affordable and more accessible health care that allows people to keep the health care that they like. "The Court's decision brings into focus the choice the American people have about the direction of our country. The President and his party believe in massive government intrusions that increase costs and take decisions away from patients. In contrast, Republicans believe in patient-centered, affordable care where health care decisions are made by patients, their families and their doctors, not by the federal government."
House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement today after the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act: "Our highest court has weighed in, and its decision to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is a victory for all Americans who have ever worried about being able to access or afford the care they need. Democrats are proud to have worked hard to pass this landmark legislation in 2010 and of our efforts to make sure it is implemented in a way that continues to yield new benefits for patients, employers, and care providers. "The Affordable Care Act made it illegal for insurance companies to discriminate against patients on the basis of pre-existing conditions, allowed young people to remain on their parents' plans until age 26, and prohibited insurance companies from charging women higher premiums than men. The Medicare Part D 'donut hole' is closing, and seniors on Medicare now have access to free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies. Moreover, the Affordable Care Act provides deficit savings of more than $1 trillion over the next two decades. The Affordable Care Act further brought peace of mind to the 30 million uninsured Americans who will finally be able to access affordable coverage once the law is fully implemented. "Republicans have been trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act since the day it was enacted, and they have been eagerly awaiting today's ruling. But they must now accept that the Affordable Care Act will remain in place and that the time for litigation and partisan posturing on this issue ought to come to an end. Republicans now have a responsibility to work with Democrats to implement the Affordable Care Act, and I call on them to do so in order to make care affordable and accessible to Americans."
Following the Supreme Court's decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, former Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Tim Kaine today released the following statement: "The Affordable Care Act is an important first step in curbing discriminatory insurance company practices and increasing access to health care, but more needs to be done to bring down costs. Our government, businesses, and citizens cannot continue to spend more than any other nation on health care while getting second-rate results. As Senator, I am committed to working with all stakeholders to find additional improvements to the Affordable Care Act that give all Americans affordable access to high quality services. "While there is more work to do, it is worth noting what has already been accomplished under the Affordable Care Act. Nearly 63,000 more young people in Virginia have health coverage, more than 800,000 Virginia seniors have received free preventive care, millions of small businesses are now eligible for tax credits, and twenty million American women have access to cancer screenings and contraception without co-pays. And we've put an end to the egregious abuses by insurance companies that denied coverage to children with preexisting conditions, charged women higher premiums for the same coverage, and dropped folks when they got sick. "My opponent regularly calls for a full repeal of this law, despite the positive results it's already delivering for Virginia. In the decade encompassing George Allen's six years as a U.S. Senator, the average insurance premium for families more than doubled and over 12 million more Americans were uninsured. Clearly, inaction was not a solution, and neither are continued calls for repeal. Instead we must work together to strengthen this existing program and improve cost controls."
Senator Jeff Merkley
Sen. Robert Menendez
Rep. Nancy Pelosi
"In passing health reform, we made history for our nation and progress for the American people. We completed the unfinished business of our society and strengthened the character of our country. We ensured health care would be a right for all, not a privilege for the few. Today, the Supreme Court affirmed our progress and protected that right, securing a future of health and economic security for the middle class and for every American."
Rep. Marcia Fudge
"This is a victory for all Americans. In my district alone an estimated 7,000 children with pre-existing health conditions can no longer be denied coverage by health insurers; thousands of seniors will receive Medicare preventive services with no out-of-pocket co-pays or deductibles; thousands of seniors on Medicare will receive an average discount of $490 per person on the cost of prescription drugs. Now, 470 small businesses in the district will have the opportunity to receive tax credits to help maintain or expand health care coverage for their employees, insurance companies can be banned from establishing lifetime coverage limits for 160,000 residents, and $4 million in public health grants will make their way to community health centers, hospitals and doctors to improve the community's health."
Rep. John Boehner
"The president's health care law is hurting our economy by driving up health costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire. Today's ruling underscores the urgency of repealing this harmful law in its entirety. What Americans want is a common-sense, step-by-step approach to health care reform that will protect Americans' access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at a lower cost. Republicans stand ready to work with a president who will listen to the people and will not repeat the mistakes that gave our country ObamaCare."
Rep. Peter Welch
"Amidst the contentious national health care debate over the last two years, there has been widespread consensus on one thing: America's health care system is broken. The only beneficiaries of the status quo are insurance companies and their executives. Working families need the peace of mind and that comes with quality and affordable health care coverage. And businesses need to compete in a global economy without the heavy burden of skyrocketing employee health care premiums. With this landmark decision now behind us, both parties should set political differences aside and make this law work for the American people. It won't be easy, but it's time to get back to work."
"Prior to the passage of ObamaCare, Speaker Pelosi infamously said Congress had to pass the bill to 'find out what is in it,' and two years later Americans now know that ObamaCare is making things worse," said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). "Worker health insurance costs have gone up 17 percent, family premiums have increased by $1,700, and small businesses and individuals throughout the country now face costly mandates and taxes. "While today's decision is disappointing, Congressional Republicans will not rest until ObamaCare is fully repealed. Rather than jam a nearly 3,000-page bill through Congress using political favors and backroom deals, as was the case with ObamaCare, Congressional Republicans are committed to working across the aisle in a step-by-step manner to improve and expand access to health care, while reducing costs for Americans."
"The Supreme Court's ruling is a victory for America's families, who deserve affordable health care," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) "The decision is great news for the millions of Californians who have already seen the benefits of this law - including the six million who now have access to free preventive health services, 355,000 young adults who now have coverage on their parents' health plans and 320,000 seniors who have received help in paying for their prescription drugs. "Now Americans will have the certainty of knowing they won't be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. Women won't be charged a higher premium because of their gender. And families struggling with serious illnesses will not face lifetime limits on coverage. "We will continue to fight Republican efforts to repeal these important health benefits while we work to make sure every American has access to quality, affordable health care."
"I continue to oppose ObamaCare," said Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. "One of my first acts as Governor was to authorize Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to add Wisconsin to the federal lawsuit opposing ObamaCare. Wisconsin will not take any action to implement ObamaCare. I am hopeful that political changes in Washington D.C. later this year ultimately end the implementation of this law at the federal level. If there is no political remedy from Washington and the law moves forward, it would require the majority of people in Wisconsin to pay more money for less healthcare. Additionally, it would increase the size and cost of government, decrease the quality of healthcare and, in our state, reduce access for those truly in need of assistance." The federal government should not tell individuals and families what to do with healthcare. The alternative is more transparency and a more active role by consumers, so we can truly control costs.
"Just because a couple people on the Supreme Court declare something to be 'constitutional' does not make it so," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) "The whole thing remains unconstitutional. While the court may have erroneously come to the conclusion that the law is allowable, it certainly does nothing to make this mandate or government takeover of our health care right." "Obamacare is wrong for Americans. It will destroy our health care system. This now means we fight every hour, every day until November to elect a new President and a new Senate to repeal Obamacare," Paul continued.
"The United States Supreme Court has ruled to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act by extending the power of the United States Congress to tax Americans' behavior," said Rep. Allen West (R-Fla). "This is a sad day for Americans, as they will be taxed to pay for benefits they may not need or want as part of the insurance they are forced to buy. With this decision, Congress has been granted infinite taxation power, and there are no longer any limits on what the federal government can tax its citizens to do. "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will hit the middle class especially hard, as hundreds of thousands of jobs will be lost as businesses try to avoid the penalties and costs created by the healthcare law. The healthcare law will cost trillions of dollars, raise costs for employers and create huge incentives for them to drop health insurance. "Benjamin Franklin did indeed state, 'In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.'However, Dr. Franklin never envisioned the federal government would use its power of taxation to punish people for not purchasing health care. Today, individual sovereignty in America has been defeated."
"Today's ruling demonstrates that health care is not the third rail in American politics. It demonstrates that reform is possible. It demonstrates that Medicare for All is inevitable," said Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Oh.) "The Affordable Care Act provided health care to those most vulnerable among us - those of the lowest income - by expanding Medicaid, a health insurance program for low-income Americans. It provided much-needed benefits. "In today's ruling, the Supreme Court held that states have the power to reject that expansion and maintain the status quo. That means that in states in which the governor decides not to prioritize providing health care to the poor, even though the federal government is paying for the vast majority of the expansion, the poor can be left out in the cold. "Today is an important day for millions of Americans who will not be denied benefits under the Affordable Care Act. But this is not the end of the conversation. Medicare for All is the solution America needs to stop the ever-rising costs of health care and provide full coverage for everyone. I supported the Affordable Health Care Act as a step in the right direction, but it is only the first step in a long journey. "States are not waiting for Congress to act. Vermont is moving forward on a single payer system, led by a push from small and medium-sized businesses who are getting crushed by health care costs. California has passed a Medicare for All system out of their legislature twice only to be vetoed by the Republican governor. Fourteen of the fifteen studies have showed that if a state went for a Medicare for All system, it would be cost neutral or save up to $19 billion per year while at the same time insuring everyone and improving the quality of care. Congress must help the states fulfill the will of their constituents," said Kucinich.
"On this day, history was made in America. This is a victory for the people, and makes clear that help is on the way for 30 million Americans who need access to affordable health insurance," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ). "Middle class families are struggling to afford health insurance and Obamacare will throw them a lifeline. It is time for the Republicans to stop the politically inspired attacks and work with us to extend this law's help to as many people as possible. With this ruling, Americans finally will have the peace of mind to know that their families will be taken care of when they get sick. President Obama has courageously stood up to false, political attacks, and his hard work was vindicated today."
"I applaud today's Supreme Court decision to uphold the health care reform law," said Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD). "This is a huge win for South Dakotans and the nation. I have always believed health care reform was constitutional. Critically, the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate. "From kids to seniors, health care reform has made a positive difference in the lives of tens of thousands of South Dakotans. More than 9,000 young adults in South Dakota have been covered under their parent's health insurance policies since the beginning of the year. "Nearly 100,000 South Dakotans on Medicare received free preventive services like mammograms and colonoscopies as a result of health reform. Already this year, beneficiaries reaching the donut hole have saved an average of $690 on prescription drugs with the help of health reform. "I look forward to continue working with members of both parties to reduce health care costs and increase health insurance coverage. The Supreme Court decision upholding the health care reform law gives us the foundation to do just that."
"After my daughter was born, our family had to give up health insurance because we couldn't afford it--a situation too many other Montana families have faced," said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mt.) "I'm pleased the Supreme Court has validated Congress' work to ensure access to health care for all Montanans. "Today's ruling doesn't mean this responsible, constitutional law can't be improved. But it is an important step forward in the fight to fix a broken system and hold big insurance companies accountable to Montana families. "Insurance companies will now continue to insure people who are sick or have pre-existing conditions--like being pregnant. Young people will stay on their parents' health insurance plans. Seniors will continue paying less for prescription drugs. And 14,000 Montana veterans will now receive health insurance."
"When Congress and President Obama first took up this issue, we knew it wouldn't be easy," said Sen. Tom Udall (D-NM). "The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act is the best possible outcome for the American people. Today, quality, affordable health care is a major step closer to becoming a reality for millions of Americans who live one accident or diagnosis away from losing everything. For these families, health care is an economic matter with the very real consequences of life, death and bankruptcy. As a nation, and across New Mexico, we cannot afford to go back to just a short time ago when insurance coverage for all was further from reach, when children with cancer could be denied coverage, and when unemployed, recent college graduates would be kicked off their parents' insurance by age 22. "We can still improve upon the law we've put into place, but today, New Mexico has already received more than $200 million in grants and loans to establish an insurance exchange, strengthen community health centers, train new health professionals and so much more. Since passing the law, more than 26,000 young adults under 26-years-old in our state have been allowed to stay on their parents' insurance plans. Almost 20,000 New Mexico seniors on Medicare received a rebate to help cover prescription costs when they hit the donut hole in 2010. And 285,000 New Mexicans with private health insurance no longer have to pay a deductible or copayment for preventive care like physicals, cancer screenings and vaccinations. More is yet to come. "Today's decision marks another turning point in our country's approach to health care equality. Now's the time to put aside partisanship and work together to make our health care policy even stronger."
"I am pleased the Supreme Court reaffirmed the hard fought progress that was made to ensure that no one can be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, being a woman will no longer be a pre-existing condition, young adults will be covered, prescription drug costs for seniors will be reduced, preventive care including life-saving mammograms will be accessible and that insurance companies can't cancel their coverage when you get sick," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY). "It is time to get beyond scoring political points and get back to finding common core values and passing legislation that will help grow our economy and get more people back to work."
"The Supreme Court may have failed to stop this government takeover of health care, but the American people will not," said Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC). "Since the day this law was rammed through Congress, the American people have demanded repeal, and today's ruling doesn't make Obamacare any less dangerous to our nation's health. Freedom-loving Americans are disappointed, but we cannot be discouraged. "The President's health care law must be fully repealed as all of its promises have proven false. We were told it was not a tax hike, but this ruling confirms it is an unprecedented and enormous tax on the poor and middle class Americans. President Obama needs to explain why he is enacting this middle class tax hike over the objections of the American people during the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression. "We were told it would lower health costs, but health care premiums are exploding. We were told that Americans could keep their personal health plans, but millions will now lose it. We were told it would improve our economy, but it is now the largest obstacle to employers hiring new workers. "This government takeover of health care remains as destructive, unsustainable, and unconstitutional as it was the day it was passed, unread, by a since-fired congressional majority. Now as then, our first step toward real health care reform and economic renewal remains Obamacare's full repeal, down to the last letter and punctuation mark. "I urge every governor to stop implementing the health care exchanges that would help implement the harmful effects of this misguided law. Americans have loudly rejected this federal takeover of health care, and governors should join with the people and reject its implementation." "The President's health care law will not reform anything, but is already undermining what does still work in America's health care system. We cannot build a free market health care system on this flawed structure of centralized government control, we must repeal all of it and start over with commonsense solutions that make health care more affordable and accessible for every American. We can allow Americans to purchase lower cost plans from other states, support state high-risk pools to cover those with pre-existing conditions, medical-malpractice reform to end frivolous lawsuits, and tax equity so Americans who don't get their health insurance from an employer are not penalized." "Today's decision, however unfortunate, nonetheless represents an opportunity to all Americans, to claim their right to create a health care system of, for, and by the people, not government or special interests. The American people now have the chance and Congress has the responsibility to fully repeal this Washington takeover and reform health care ourselves, together, around the principles of individual liberty, not government mandates. "The same freedom that made America strong and prosperous will make us healthier, too, so long as politicians remember that the health care system is supposed to serve our people, and not the other way around."
"This is a dark day for the American people, the Constitution, and the rule of law," said Virginia Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli. "This is a dark day for American liberty. "This decision goes against the very principle that America has a federal government of limited powers; a principle that the Founding Fathers clearly wrote into the Constitution, the supreme law of the land. The Constitution was meant to restrict the power of government precisely for the purpose of protecting your liberty and mine from the overreaching hand of the federal government. "This unprecedented decision says that Congress has the authority to force citizens to buy private goods or face fines - a power it has never had in American history, and a power King George III and Parliament didn't have over us when we were mere subjects of Great Britain. Since the federal government itself could never articulate to the court a constitutional limit to this power, Congress has gained an unlimited power to force citizens to buy anything. "I am disappointed with the court's ruling and with the unprecedented attack on American liberty the president and the previous Congress have created with this law. "We are currently reading the decision and I will have more comment at the news conference at noon."
"The winners today are the American people," said Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich). After nearly five decades - spanning eight presidents - we have succeeded in enacting comprehensive health care reform. Americans are already benefitting from the law's provisions that prevent the worst insurance company abuses, expand preventive care, reduce prescription drug costs for seniors, and allow young adults to stay on their parents' insurance. "Now we can move forward and implement the law's provisions that will expand coverage, and reform our overall system to reduce costs for middle class families. I urge my Republican colleagues to respect the opinion of the Court and end their misleading and partisan all-out assault on health care reform."
"The Supreme Court missed an historic opportunity to rein in the federal government," said Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich). For decades, Congress has stretched the Constitution to authorize whatever new mandate it invents. Instead of acting as an impartial referee, the Court has been complicit in allowing Congress and the President to expand their power at the expense of state governments and the people. "The Court's decision green lights the continued expansion of the size and scope of the federal government. It also underscores the need to have congressmen who resist the impulse to aggrandize power in Washington. Now more than ever, Congress must commit itself to following the Constitution and limiting the federal government. We can begin to fulfill that commitment by repealing the President's health care law in its entirety."
"I've been clear from the very beginning that I do not believe a one-size-fits-all health care program works for the entire country and that each governor should have the ability to make decisions about what works best for their state," said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). "Today's Supreme Court decision is disappointing and I still believe this is the wrong approach for the people of New Jersey who should be able to make their own judgments about health care. Most importantly, the Supreme Court is confirming what we knew all along about this law - it is a tax on middle class Americans."