Inside every cloud is a silver lining, and after President Barack Obama’s stunning Supreme Court win on health care, his Republican opponents may have a campaign issue to crow about: tax hikes.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court said the Obama health care plan is constitutional, mostly because its health insurance mandate survived on a legal technicality.
But it could be that legal technicality that boosts Mitt Romney’s campaign, given a court ruling that mandatory health insurance for some Americans is a tax.
Chief Justice John Roberts agreed to a secondary argument made in March court hearings that the mandate was allowed as a tax, even though it violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
Few observers saw that coming. But it was enough to save the Affordable Care Act.
And in the hours after the Supreme Court decision, the GOP was on the offensive, saying the court just affirmed that President Obama lied in 2009 when he said the Affordable Care Act wasn’t a tax hike.
During nearly six hours of health care hearings in March 2012, the administration’s secondary argument about the mandate as a tax drew laughs in the courtroom.
U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was chided for using the term “tax penalty” by Justice Samuel Alito.
“Today you are arguing that the penalty is not a tax. Tomorrow you are going to be back and you will be arguing that the penalty is a tax,” said Justice Alito, to loud laughter.
It was that obscure argument, which many saw as Verrilli’s low point, that saved the ACA.
But on Thursday, Republicans seized on the idea that Obama and the liberal part of the Supreme Court pushed a huge tax hike on the American people.
“Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion. Obamacare cuts Medicare, cuts Medicare, by approximately $500 billion. And even with those cuts, and tax increases, Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt and pushes those obligations on to coming generations,” said Romney.
Other statements from GOP leaders called the individual mandate the biggest tax hike in U.S. history.
Commentator Rush Limbaugh quickly jumped out in front with his own message, saying it was a “massive, regressive tax on all Americans.”
And just as quickly, Democratic websites like Media Matters for America were out with a counter-message, saying that individual mandate only applied to between 2 and 5 percent of Americans.
It also pointed out a more problematic issue for Romney: His health care plan in Massachusetts included an individual insurance mandate.
Another left-leaning web site, Think Progess, was out with statements from 42 Republicans on Thursday bashing “the ACA tax hike,” with a companion video from 2006 showing Romney discussing about how he used taxes as governor to mandate health insurance.
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