Democratic leaders in Congress who praised the Supreme Court for upholding the health care law — by ruling that the individual mandate is constitutional as a tax — refused to call the mandate a tax when questioned by The Daily Caller.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who was Speaker of the House when Congress passed the health care law in 2010, told TheDC that asking whether or not the mandate was a tax is “Washington talk.”
“Call it what you will — it’s a step forward for America’s families, and you know what? Take ‘yes’ for an answer. This is a very good thing for the American people. What you’re talking about here is Washington talk,” Pelosi told TheDC at her weekly press briefing on June 28.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters told TheDC that she has not decided what to call the mandate, which requires every individual to purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the Internal Revenue Service, but said she is “happy” the Supreme Court upheld the law.
“What I have not decided is whether or not it’s better to call it a tax or a mandate. What I have decided is it’s absolutely necessary that it be paid for — that if we’re going to cover all of these pre-existing conditions that I just alluded to, we have to have the income by which to do it and so I have not decided that one may be better than the other,” said Waters, a member of the House Financial Services Committee.
“I’m going to think about that, and I’m going to review, and perhaps I’ll have a different opinion on it later on,” she continued, “but right now I’m just happy.”
When pressed on the issue, Waters still would not say if the Democrat-controlled Congress intended to create a new tax when they passed the health care bill.
“I don’t want us to start projecting out and start to talk about what’s going to happen in the future,” Waters responded.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is “very happy” the Supreme Court ruled the mandate constitutional but refused to discuss whether or not he personally thinks it is a tax.
“I’m not about here to give you all a dissertation on constitutional law. The law has been withheld and I’m very happy it has been,” Reid told TheDC.
In the halls of Congress, TheDC also interviewed New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who is the third-ranking Democrat in the Senate as the vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus.
“Ask Mitt Romney. Okay, let’s get to somebody else,” Schumer replied when asked by TheDC if he agrees with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling that the individual mandate is a tax.
Schumer, who has served in the Senate since 1999, then took another reporter’s question and praised Chief Justice John Roberts for siding with the left-wing judges of the court to uphold the individual mandate as a tax.
“I can say, in my view, that it certainly merited upholding under the Commerce Clause and, you know, I think — I do worry in the future about the courts limiting the Commerce Clause as a way of limiting the ability of the federal government to help average families,” Schumer said.
“But, overall, I’m very pleased — pleasantly surprised — that Justice Roberts rose to the occasion and transcended politics.”
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.