The Supreme Court may call it a tax and Republicans may call it a tax, but Democrats insisted Sunday that the fee for noncompliance with the Affordable Care Act bears no resemblance to a tax.
White House Chief of Staff Jack Lew called it a “penalty” and estimated that it would affect only about 1 percent of Americans.
“Let’s be clear on who that 1 percent is: Those are people who can afford health insurance, who choose not to buy it, and then when they get sick, they go to the hospital and the cost gets spread among all the people paying for insurance,” said Mr. Lew on ABC-TV’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos.” “The court found it constitutional. Frankly, what you call it is not the issue.”
Mr. Stephanopoulos noted that Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. described it as a tax.
“[W]e call it fair,” Mr. Lew said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, also refused to use the T-word in an interview on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press.”
“No, it’s a penalty,” Mrs. Pelosi said. “It’s a penalty that comes under the tax code for the 1 percent perhaps of the population who may decide that they are going to be free riders. But most people are not affected by it. No, no, it’s not a tax on the American people, it’s a penalty for free riders.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Paul Ryan, House Budget Committee chairman, accused the Democrats of “hypocrisy” for refusing to acknowledge the health-care laws tax increase on “This Week.”
“The president on your show said that this is not a tax, and then he sent his solicitor general to the Supreme Court to argue that it is a tax in order to get this past the Supreme Court,” Mr. Ryan, Wisconsin Republican, said. “The broken promises and hypocrisy are becoming breathtaking from the president, who says one thing to get this past Congress and another thing to get it past the Supreme Court. Believe me, if this was brought to the public as a tax, there’s no way this law would have passed as a law in the first place.”
Mr. Ryan said the ruling has re-energized GOP voters, given that the law can be repealed now only if Republicans win the presidency and Senate.
“We think we can repeal this law if we win this election, and that’s what the chief justice said — it’s now up to the American people,” Mr. Ryan said. “It’s beyond Congress, the president and even the Supreme Court. The American people will be the judge and the jury of this law come November.”
Mrs. Pelosi said she doubted that Republicans would succeed, given that voters already are experiencing benefits from the Affordable Care Act and that some will be receiving refund checks in August.
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