Friday, February 27, 2015

Romney in the "penalty" box

Mitt's decision to side with Obama on whether health-care imposes a penalty or a tax is at odds with his party leaders and underscores his tough position as a critic of the law.

Romney in the "penalty" box

Former Sen. Rick Santorum said throughout his GOP primary run for president that Mitt Romney is in no position to battle President Obama on the health-care law.

The Romney campaign is proving Santorum right.

Breaking with Republican party and congressional leaders, Mitt's campaign on Monday said the former Massachusetts governor agrees with the President that the law's controversial individual mandate to purchase health-care coverage is a penalty, not a tax.

This puts Mitt squarely at odds with the likes of House Speaker John Boehner and Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell.

Boehner said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," that due to the Supreme Court decision "now we know" the mandate is a tax. McConnell said on the Senate floor last Friday, "The court has now spoken: it is a tax."

Romney has skated into the penalty box. And it's because of his own health-care law in Massachusetts, with a mandate, that he described as a penalty, not a tax.

And despite Romney saying right after the high court ruling was announced last week that "Obamacare raises taxes on the American people," his campaign spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, told MSNBC on Monday:

"The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty, and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax."

Democrats argue the mandate is a penalty under the tax code impacting about 1% of the population that opts not to purchase health-care coverage.

Here's coverage of the issue from The Hill and The Wall Street Journal.

We'll see how long it keeps Mitt off the ice.

But Mitt can take solace from this quote from Charlestown Chiefs goalie Denis Lemieux in the 1977 film "Slap Shot": "You do that, you go to the box, you know. Two minutes, by yourself, you know and you feel shame, you know. And then you get free."

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
About this blog
John Baer has been covering politics and government for the Daily News since 1987. The National Journal in 2002 called Baer one of the country's top 10 political journalists outside Washington, saying Baer has, "the ability to take the skin off a politician without making it hurt too much." E-mail John at

John is the author of the book "On The Front Lines of Pennsylvania Politics: Twenty-Five Years of Keystone Reporting" (The History Press, 2012). Reach John at

John Baer Daily News Political Columnist
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