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Is health care ruling Obama's 'Read my lips: No new taxes' moment?

Republicans are beating up on President Obama because the Supreme Court said the Affordable Care Act is tied to new taxes. But that could be a problem for Mitt Romney given his record in Massachusetts.

By Staff writer / July 1, 2012

President Barack Obama speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington Thursday after the Supreme Court ruled on his health care legislation, the Affordable Care Act.

Luke Sharrett/The New York Times/AP

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Remember “Read my lips: No new taxes” – George H. W. Bush’s infamous pledge in 1988, which he was forced to break as president and which Bill Clinton used to hammer Mr. Bush four years later?

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Republicans certainly do, and they’re using it target President Obama – both on the specifics of the Affordable Care Act, which they vow to repeal, and to paint Obama as a tax-and-spend liberal.

Here’s how we got to this moment:

In launching what he’s now happy to call “Obamacare” back in 2009, the President likened the proposed penalty for not having health care coverage to car insurance. "Nobody considers that a tax increase,” he told ABC News. “People say to themselves, 'that is a fair way to make sure that if you hit my car, that I'm not covering all the costs.' "

It was a point repeatedly made by the White House and congressional Democrats as the ACA fought its way to passage. No new taxes.

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Fast-forward to last week and the US Supreme Court’s startling decision to uphold the ACA as constitutional.

Speaking for the court majority regarding the individual mandate, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: "The Affordable Care Act's requirement that certain individuals pay a financial penalty for not obtaining health insurance may reasonably be characterized as a tax." 

Boom. Obamacare passes constitutional muster because its chief element is a tax.

"The Supreme Court has spoken,” declared Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. “This law is a tax."

Americans for Prosperity, the conservative political action committee funded by the Koch brothers, has just launched a $9 million ad campaign targeting the ACA and running in 12 swing states.

"Obama's health care law is actually one of the largest tax increases in history," the ad's narrator says. "Shouldn't Obama's priorities have been creating jobs and ending reckless spending?"

Meanwhile, key Democrats were all over the Sunday morning TV blabfests denying the charge.

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