Republican Sen. Mike Lee: ‘I Don’t Think It Was a Tax’

By Jon Street | July 2, 2012 | 11:23 AM EDT

( – Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) said he disagrees with the Supreme Court’s rationale for upholding Obamacare’s individual mandate, which requires all Americans to purchase insurance or else pay a financial penalty -- "which may reasonably be characterized as a tax," the ruling says.

“The Supreme Court said it was a tax. I don’t think it was a tax,” Lee told “Congress didn’t think it was a tax. The president assured us that it wasn’t a tax. There’s nothing about the text or the structure of the Affordable Care Act that suggests it was a tax. But the Supreme Court concluded that it was.”

Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the court’s four liberals to uphold the constitutionality of Obamacare: “No one would doubt that this law imposed a tax, and was within Congress’s power to tax,” he wrote. “That conclusion should not change simply because Congress used the word ‘penalty’ to describe the pay­ment.”

Lee was not a member of Congress when the Democrats’ health care bill was passed but he says he wouldn’t have called it a tax: “I have been telling my constituents, I’ve been telling everyone since then, that it now is regarded as a tax. That’s the only way it can survive legally now is to call it a tax.”

A spokesman for Lee said the senator considers the financial penalty to be a fine, but calling it a tax puts the president in a “pickle.”

“If it’s a tax, then he’s raising taxes on people. If it’s not a tax, then it’s unconstitutional,” said Lee’s spokesman. “The president was unequivocal dozens of times that he would not raise taxes on people making less than $250,000 and this bill, according to [the Congressional Budget Office], will raise taxes on people making less than $250,000.”

In a 2008 campaign speech in Springfield, Mo., then-Sen. Barack Obama said, “If you are a family making less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes go up. Not your capital gains tax, not your payroll tax, not your income tax, no taxes. Your taxes will not go up.”

“But either way that you look at it, either the president is a liar or his mandate is unconstitutional, and he needs to answer for that and be held accountable for it,” Lee’s spokesman said.

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