In 2009, President Barack Obama told ABC News that the individual mandate is “absolutely” not a tax. When testifying before Congress in February 2012, White House Budget Director Jeffrey Zients also said the individual mandate is not a tax.
In addition, while defending the Obama administration in the health care case before the Supreme Court, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. conceded that the individual mandate is not a tax but a penalty. Instead, he argued that the federal government gets its authority to require all Americans to purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the IRS under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
Article 1, Section 8, Clause 3 of the Constitution says, “[The Congress shall have Power t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” (RELATED: McConnell: Commerce Clause ‘meaningless’ if Obamacare ruled constitutional [VIDEO])
In the court’s majority opinion, Chief Justice Roberts found the mandate to be unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause but constitutional as a tax.
“The Affordable Care Act’s requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Roberts wrote.
While he supports Roberts’ decision to uphold the law, New Jersey Democratic Sen. Frank Lautenberg holds a different view on the mandate.
“It isn’t a tax. It’s making up for expenses not previously met and, for instance, we have the free riders — the people who say, ‘Well, hell, I’m not sick and I have no problems and so I’m not going to bother,’” Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, told TheDC.
New York Rep. Charlie Rangel of the Ways and Means Committee agrees: “Well, I haven’t read the opinion but I’m pleased with the results,” Rangel told TheDC on Capitol Hill.
TheDC followed up, asking, “Do you think it’s a tax, in your personal opinion?”
“No — it’s a fee for services,” Rangel replied.