As President Barack Obama's Solicitor General defends his signature health care law at the Supreme Court, Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn is attacking it for violating his campaign pledge against raising taxes on the middle class.
A study by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation conducted in response to an inquiry by Coburn and released today, finds a number of provisions that would increase taxes on the middle class — precisely those Obama said in 2008 would not face "any form of tax increase" — including the individual mandate.
Complicating matters for Obama is that the Soliciter General, Donald Verrilli, is arguing at the Supreme Court on his behalf that the individual mandate is constitutional, in part, because the penalty falls under Congress' ability to levy a tax.
“To most Americans a tax is any government policy that takes money out of their pocket, which includes rate hikes but also borrowing, inflation, currency debasement, etc. In that sense the penalty is a tax, just like inflationary policy can be tax," Coburn said in a statement to BuzzFeed. "However, the administration has tortured the definition to yield two contradictory confessions – that it is both a tax and not a tax.”
“More importantly, claiming that Congress has the constitutional authority to impose the individual mandate because it has attached a so-called ‘tax penalty’ to the provision is as absurd as claiming that Congress can compel you to eat your peas as long as Congress ‘fines or taxes’ you for not cleaning your plate. Looking to tax law to justify the individual mandate is proof that the provision is not rooted in the Commerce Clause. At the end of the day, the law’s contradictions and lack of clarity is a sure sign that it will not work, regardless of how the Court rules.”
Asked about whether the penalty violated Obama's campaign pledge, the Obama campaign deferred comment to the White House, which in turn deferred comment to the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.