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Romney's Health Care 'Penalty' Label Puts Him Under Republican Fire

Paige Brettingen |
July 2, 2012 | 3:12 p.m. PDT

Executive Producer

Mitt Romney (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)
Mitt Romney (Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons)

While Republican candidate Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have shared little in common during the jab-fest leading to November's elections, the new health care law passed last week has brought up something they may actually both agree upon, to the dismay of Republican supporters.

Though Republicans have criticized the Affordable Care Act, claiming that a tax will be imposed on those who do not purchase health insurance, Romney has acknowledged- along with Obama- that the health care charge would not be a tax, but rather, a penalty, said Romney's campaign spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom.

Reuters reported:

  • Fehrnstrom's comments to MSNBC, which were accompanied by a new push by the Romney campaign to focus on jobs, indicated that Romney's team does not want to linger on the health care ruling - a victory for Obama in court - and instead is keen to highlight Obama's weakness, the economy.
  • "The governor has consistently described the mandate as a penalty," Fehrnstrom said.
  • His remarks worried some Republicans who fear the Romney campaign is undercutting one of the party's key arguments against Obama's health care plan.

Many Republicans have raised concerns that Romney isn't pressuring Obama enough about the tax; News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch has commented how Romney "needs more fight." Murdoch also tweeted that Romney will have a tough time beating Obama “unless he drops old friends from [his] team and hires some real pros. Doubtful.”

However, the Romney campaign did cite the health care law's penalty as "unconstitutional," according to Fox News, and did not agree with how President Obama also seemed to skirt the issue of the tax.

  • The Romney campaign, though, also suggested President Obama was trying to have it both ways, by embracing the Supreme Court decision while continuing to call the fine a "penalty" in public.
  • Mitt Romney's campaign challenged Obama to make a decision -- either call it an unconstitutional penalty or a "constitutional tax," but not both.

CBS News reported that according to a CNN poll conducted from June 28-July 1, Republicans' approval rating of the Supreme Court dropped by almost 21 percent to 31 percent overall following the health care ruling.

With the passing of the law, there are also certain parts which states can "opt out" of. Among those states opting out are South Carolina, Wisconsin and Florida:

  • "Floridians are interested in jobs and economic growth, a quality education for their children, and keeping the cost of living low," [Florida Governor] Scott said in a statement. "Neither of these major provisions in ObamaCare will achieve those goals, and since Florida is legally allowed to opt out, that's the right decision for our citizens."

The Supreme Court also ruled last week that those exempt from Obama's Affordable Care Act include those who object due to religious reasons, those in jail, undocumented immigrants, members of Native American tribes, anyone who would pay more than 8 percent of their income to get coverage or who do not earn enough to file taxes.


Read more Neon Tommy coverage of health care here.

Reach Executive Producer Paige Brettingen here.



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