The New York Times, By Annie Lowrey –
July 1, 2012: Jacob J. Lew, the White House chief of staff, on Sunday defended President Obama‘s health care law but rejected the “tax” label that the Supreme Court, in a ruling that mostly upheld the law last week, used to describe the penalty payment required for those who choose not to buy health insurance.
The Supreme Court affirmed the so-called individual mandate to buy health insurance on the ground that it might be “reasonably characterized as a tax.”
Since the ruling, Republican leaders have denounced the White House for raising the tax burden on Americans with the law, and they have called for its full repeal.
The mandate is a central piece of the health care law and is enforceable with a penalty assessed through the tax system.
But Mr. Lew repeatedly declined to call the mandate a tax. “The law set it up as a penalty for the people who make” the choice not to purchase health insurance, he said in an interview with George Stephanopoulos on the ABC program “This Week.” “The court found it constitutional. Frankly, what you call it is not the issue.”
“For that 1 percent who have chosen not to buy health insurance, and just to pass the burden on to others, there’s this penalty,” he said.
Mr. Obama has also denied that the penalty is a tax. “For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” he said in a 2009 interview with Mr. Stephanopoulos, for instance. “What it’s saying is, is that we’re not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you anymore.”
On the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Speaker John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, said the law “has to be ripped out by its roots.”
“This is government taking over the entire health insurance industry,” Mr. Boehner said in an interview with Norah O’Donnell. “The American people do not want to go down this path. They do not want the government telling them what kind of insurance policy they have to buy, and how much they have to pay for it, and if you don’t like it we’re going to tax you.”
Mr. Lew said Congress should move on. “It’s time now to get over the debate and implement that law,” he said in a separate interview on Sunday on the CNN program “State of the Union.”
“What the American people don’t want is, they don’t want to be taken back to the old divisive debate,” he said. “They want to get on with it, and they want us to be focusing on economic growth and creating jobs.”
The ruling has set off a heated debate over whether the penalty constitutes a tax. Republicans have argued that the Supreme Court ruling clearly means it is. Democrats have argued that it is not, given that it will hit only a small number of Americans and is not designed to raise revenue for the government.
The dispute over the health care law, the Affordable Care Act, dominated the Sunday morning programs.
The Supreme Court justices are “eroding our freedoms, but at least they’re more honest than the president,” Bobby Jindal, the Republican governor of Louisiana, said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.” “They called it what it was: a huge tax increase. The federal government can now tax us for inactivity to compel behavior, not primarily to collect revenue.”
The House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said the health care law in fact provides significant tax breaks for families and small businesses buying insurance.
“The penalty is on people who have the wherewithal but refuse to buy health insurance, figuring they won’t be sick and if they do other people will have to cover it,” she said on “Meet the Press.”
Mr. Lew, on CNN, also contested the idea that the Supreme Court ruling meant that the mandate penalty was definitively a tax. “They didn’t call it a tax. They said it was using a power under the Constitution that permits it,” he said. “It was not labeled. And this is a penalty. It’s something that only 1 percent of the people who could afford insurance who choose not to get it will pay.”
Source: John & Rusty Report via Word&Brown.com