Pelosi: Individual Mandate Isn’t a Tax: ‘No, It’s Penalty, No, It’s a Penalty, It’s a Penalty’

By Susan Jones | July 2, 2012 | 6:06 AM EDT

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. relays the breaking news to her staff that the Supreme Court had just upheld the Affordable Care Act, Thursday, June 28, 2012, on Capitol Hill. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( – On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Obamacare’s individual mandate as a tax, but on Sunday, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) refused to use that word, insisting that the mandate is a really a penalty.

“The president was adamant saying the individual mandate is not a tax,” said David Gregory, host of NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“Well, it's not,” Pelosi replied.

Gregory noted that President Obama’s solicitor general argued before the Supreme Court that the individual mandate was constitutional under Congress’s taxing authority – but “that’s not how this was sold to the American (people).”

“No, it's a penalty. No, it's a penalty,” Pelosi insisted. “It's a penalty that comes under the tax code for the 1 percent, perhaps, of the population who may decide that they're going to be free riders. But most people are not affected by it.”

“But it's a new tax,” Gregory said. “It is a new tax on the American people.”

“No, no, no. It's not a tax on the American people,” Pelosi responded. Then she slipped up: “It's a tax--it's a penalty for free riders.”

Pelosi noted that the “penalty” will apply to people who “have the wherewithal but refuse to buy health insurance, figuring they won't be sick and if they do, other people will have to cover it. So these free riders, as they were identified by Governor Romney himself, he said people have the ability to pay and don't, can't expect to be free riders. And I think that he termed it exactly right. These free riders make health insurance for those who are taking responsibility, making it more expensive. Personal responsibility is a principle of our country.”

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Pelosi said under the health care law, “free riders” will have to step up and purchase health insurance – “or they get a--they get a penalty. And the penalty, yes, it is charged under the tax code. It could come any other place, but it's under the tax code, and the tax code is a place where the federal government has all the constitutional authority to act, as the Court said.”

Pelosi agreed that health care is here to stay: “Absolutely,” she said. “And it’ll only get better.”

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