Republicans, including Speaker of the House John Boehner, have used the Supreme Court's ruling on the Obama administration's health care law to criticize the president for a new tax on Americans. (The justices ruled the law was constitutional because the government is allowed to levy taxes; The law includes a fine for those who do not comply.) But this causes a problem for the Mitt Romney presidential campaign, which is anti-tax, because Romney passed a very similar health care reform law that included a penalty fee when he was governor of Massachusetts.
MSNBC host Chuck Todd pressed senior adviser Fehrnstrom to explain if Romney viewed his Massachusetts health care reform fee as a tax or penalty.
"A penalty," he answered after saying the law should be "repealed for a whole host of reasons."
"The governor disagreed with the ruling of the court. He agreed with the dissent that was written by Justice [Antonin] Scalia that very clearly stated that the mandate was not a tax," Fehrnstrom said, later adding:
"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."
Todd expressed his confusion given that this contradicts the existing Republican talking point on the health care law as a tax: "So he agrees with the president that you shouldn't call the tax penalty a tax?"
"That’s correct," Fehrnstrom said. "But the president also needs to be held accountable for his hypocritical and contradictory statements because he’s described it variously as a penalty and a tax.