Thursday, July 5, 2012

Obamacare Mandate Taxing the Administration’s Powers of Spin

In today’s latest installment of absurd political parsing, the Obama campaign said today that Obamacare’s mandate is not a tax, and is instead a “penalty,” despite what the Supreme Court ruled last week.  The campaign claimed “the Administration ‘never referred to it as a tax’ in court.”

Actually, that’s not exactly true either.  The Solicitor General claimed it WAS a tax increase – because Senator Baucus said it was a tax increase, and Congress upheld it on those grounds.  From page 49 of the transcript of March 27’s oral arguments:

JUSTICE KAGAN:  I suppose, though, General, one question is whether the determined efforts of Congress not to refer to this as a tax make a difference….And that seems right, except that here we have a case in which Congress determinedly said, this is not a tax, and the question is why should that be irrelevant?

GENERAL VERRILLI:  I don’t think that that’s a fair characterization of the actions of Congress here, Justice Kagan.  On the — December 23rd, a point of constitutional order was called, too, in fact, with respect to this law.  The floor sponsor, Senator Baucus, defended it as an exercise of the taxing power.  In his response to the point of order, the Senate voted 60 to 39 on that proposition.

Ironically enough, even though the Solicitor General argued that Congress imposed the mandate as a tax increase – purportedly at odds with the President’s (current) position – at no point did the President attempt to contest that legislative history.  President Obama could have vetoed the entire law because Congress said the mandate was a tax increase.  He also could have issued a presidential signing statement clarifying that the mandate was not a tax increase.  He did no such thing.

Recall the case of Obama v. Stephanopoulos, whereby the President claimed that “the fact that you’ve looked up Merriam’s [sic] Dictionary, the definition of tax increase, indicates to me that you’re stretching a bit.”  That’s not “stretching” nearly as far as the Solicitor General’s claim that the mandate is a tax because Congress said it’s a tax – and the President, while disagreeing with that interpretation, signed the law based on that premise and never took an official act to register said disagreement.

At this rate, the next thing the Administration will do is claim the law isn’t a tax increase because you’re not paying the tax increase right this second.  Don’t think a Democrat President could make such a ridiculous claim?  Think again.

Unfortunately, Chief Justice Roberts didn’t condition his ruling upholding the mandate under the taxing power on President Obama first admitting publicly that the mandate is in fact a tax increase. (One only wonders how the President might have responded under those circumstances.)  But there really are only two options here:  The mandate is either unconstitutional, or it’s a multi-billion dollar tax increase.  Pick one.