Taxing problem as Romney flip flops on mandate
His comments about the mandate being a tax came on an otherwise slow Fourth of July, ensuring that they dominated the news cycle, albeit one that fewer people than usual were paying attention to.
By insisting that the mandate is a tax, Romney has opened himself up to criticism that he, too, raised taxes as governor. His campaign has sought to portray him as a tax cutter, despite the Obama campaign’s efforts to highlight state fees that arose under Romney.
In the CBS interview, he insisted he had not imposed a tax and sought to draw an academic distinction between taxes and penalties.
“The chief justice in his opinion made it very clear that at the state level, states have the power to put in place mandates,” he said. “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 appeared to be making a finer point about the absolute role the Supreme Court plays in setting US law, even if the nuance was lost on many.
“Well, the Supreme Court has the final word and their final word is that Obamacare is a tax. So it’s a tax,” he said.
He also sought to reconcile his comments on Wednesday with his earlier positions – and put himself in line with conservatives – by saying he agreed with the dissent in the Supreme Court case. That dissent – by Anthony M Kennedy and three more conservative justices: Clarence Thomas, Antonin Scalia and Samuel A Alito jr – called the majority’s ruling “vast judicial overreach” and argued that the healthcare law should have been struck down.
Bill Burton, a founder of Priorities USA Action, a super Pac (political action committee) supporting Obama, said: “Romney’s ideological gymnastics will both weaken his standing on the healthcare debate but, more importantly, further undercut any notion of strength in his leadership.”
Romney’s remarks proved a distraction from what should have been a day of patriotic photo ops as he vacationed in New Hampshire. He appeared in the annual Fourth of July parade here, energetically working the crowds. “Terrific to see you!” he said, beaming as he stretched his hands out toward the onlookers, sometimes shaking with both hands. “Hey, how are you? Happy Fourth of July!”
Although this is clearly Romney country – yard signs for the candidate dot lawns everywhere here, the site of his lake house – there were a few interlopers along the parade route.
Sid Hall of nearby Tuftonboro stood with a group of his friends and family waving “New Hampshire for Obama” signs along Main Street. About 20 of them were at the parade, a family ritual that is usually apolitical. But this year he said they decided to pull a quiet act of liberal defiance.
“We do feel a little out of our element,” he said with a smile. – (New York Times service)