Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • White House: Sorry, Roberts, Obamacare mandate is a penalty, not a tax

    A protester against Obamacare outside the Supreme Court on Thursday (David Goldman/AP)

    The White House argued on Friday that the individual mandate at the heart of Obamacare is a penalty, not a tax, contradicting the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling a day earlier upholding the historic health care law. But if it is a tax, blame Mitt Romney, spokesman Jay Carney suggested.

    "It's a penalty because you have a choice. You don't have a choice to pay your taxes, right?" Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. President Barack Obama was on his way to Colorado to view the response to the worst wildfires in the state's history.

    In any case, Carney said, the penalty "is modeled exactly on the penalty that exists in the health care reform that was promoted and signed into law by Gov. Romney in Massachusetts."

    Republicans pounced Thursday on Chief Justice John Roberts' ruling that the Affordable Care Act passed constitutional muster as a legitimate exercise of Congress' power to levy taxes.

    Roberts wrote that the law "makes going without insurance just another thing the government taxes, like buying gasoline or earning an income." His words offered Republicans disappointed by the ruling something of a political silver lining: They have been hitting the law as a vast tax hike and clearly plan to do so through to the election.

    "You can call it what you want," Carney said, underlining Congressional Budget Office estimates that it will affect only 1 percent of Americans. "It is not a broad-based tax."

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  • Obama: Health care is ‘still a BFD’

    Remember when the VP had a NSFW moment about the ACA and people LOL'd and SMHed? For $30, you can now get the shirt.

    Vice President Joe Biden raised a few eyebrows at the March 23, 2010, signing of the Affordable Care Act when a microphone caught his whispered "this is a big fucking deal" to President Barack Obama.

    Two years and one historic Supreme Court decision later, Obama's re-election campaign has put "Health Reform Still a BFD" on a T-shirt, with a $30 price tag. Obama tweeted a link to the garment. (There are other Obamacare items there too, including a "pack" that comes with an "I like Obamacare" shirt, and bumper stickers and buttons).

    Technically, you're not buying the shirt: You're making a donation to the campaign and getting the item in return. Campaign stores are, in effect, a way to reward small donors and keep them coming back.

    Some Republicans are already joking that Obamacare is actually a BFT—a Big Federal Tax. But Mitt Romney has yet to add any Obamacare-themed

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  • Holder contempt vote ‘a transparently political stunt,’ says White House

    Attorney General Eric Holder (Bill Haber/AP)

    The White House denounced the Republican-led House of Representatives vote to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress, accusing President Barack Obama's foes of looking to score political points.

    Republicans said Holder's refusal to turn over documents tied to the Fast and Furious operation, which aimed to track how firearms sold in America end up in the hands of Mexican drug cartels, had compelled lawmakers to act.

    But Obama communications director Dan Pfeiffer accused Republicans of opting "for political theater rather than legitimate Congressional oversight" after serving notice earlier this year that one of their top goals was "to investigate the Administration and ensure that President Obama was a one-term President."

    "Despite the major economic challenges facing the country, they talked openly about devoting taxpayer-funded, Congressional oversight resources to political purposes," he charged in a statement.

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  • Obama cheers Supreme Court’s health care ruling, says focus must now be jobs

    President Barack Obama welcomes the Supreme Court's health care ruling (Luke Sharrett/AP/Pool)

    President Barack Obama called the Supreme Court's decision to uphold his historic health care overhaul a victory for sick and struggling Americans and vowed a renewed focus on the worry atop voters' minds: the sour economy.

    "Whatever the politics, today's decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court's decision to uphold it," he said in brief remarks two hours after the nine justices delivered their verdict.

    "Now's the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead," he said in the ornate East Room of the White House.

    Even as he professed that a political scorecard missed the point of the 5-4 ruling, Obama also got in a sly dig at Mitt Romney. The president defended his adoption of the so-called "individual mandate," which requires Americans to have health insurance or pay a penalty, and underlined: "This idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for president."

    The nearly united Republican response to the high court's ruling showed that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) had won only a reprieve and that its fate was now entwined with the results of the presidential election. Republicans, channeling deep conservative anger at the law, vowed to target the law for repeal in Congress and served notice that the only way to roll it back was to put Romney in the White House. (House Republican leaders set a July 11 repeal vote—a symbolic measure since Democrats control the Senate.)

    "This is a time of choice for the American people. Our mission is clear: If we want to get rid of Obamacare, we're going to have to replace President Obama," Romney said in televised remarks, speaking from a rooftop with the Capitol as his backdrop. "If you don't want the course that President Obama has put us on, if you want instead a course that the Founders envisioned, then join me in this effort. Help us. Help us defeat Obamacare. Help us defeat the liberal agenda that makes government too big, too intrusive, and is killing jobs across this great country."

    The Romney campaign said that in the three hours after the ruling, it had raised more than $1 million.

    The president, alluding to public opinion polls that have never found the law to be popular, noted that "it should be pretty clear by now I didn't do this because it was good politics." But he urged Americans to set aside the "divisive" debates of 2009 and 2010.

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  • Obama campaign raising funds off pending Supreme Court ruling

    President Barack Obama hosts lawmakers Wednesday for a White House picnic (Susan Walsh/AP)President Barack Obama (Susan Walsh/AP)

    Diagnosis: A potentially brutal Supreme Court ruling. Cure: Send money.

    That was the message from President Barack Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, to supporters on Thursday as Washington breathlessly awaited the nine justices' ruling on whether the president's landmark health care law overstepped the Constitution.

    "We don't know what will happen this morning," Messina said in a fundraising message sent by email just a couple of hours before the court was expected to announce its decision. "But no matter what, today is an important day to have Barack Obama's back."

    "If you're with him, donate now—before this week's critical fundraising deadline," he urged, promising "more soon" (presumably coming after the ruling is public, around 10 a.m. Thursday morning).

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  • Obama doesn’t like your favorite baseball team (unless it’s the White Sox)

    President Barack Obama (Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP)

    President Barack Obama will fly Air Force One to your hometown, he'll praise your local politicians, visit your favorite diner, sample your local fare, kiss your baby and (ahem) he'll take your donations—but he isn't going to pretend to like your baseball team, America.

    Not unless your team is the Chicago White Sox.

    That was the message from White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday as he tried to squelch "some really silly reporting" about how the crowd at a Boston fundraiser the night before booed Obama after he thanked Red Sox fans for trading Kevin Youkilis to the White Sox.

    The response? Here's how the White House's official transcript put it: "Booo."

    "I'm just saying: He's going to have to change the color of his socks," Obama added, getting what sounded like laughter and boos from the rowdy but friendly crowd.

    "I didn't think I'd get any 'boos' out of here, but I guess I shouldn't have—I should not have brought up baseball. I understand. My mistake," said the president.

    Cue the audience: "Booo."

    Back to Obama: "My mistake. You've got to know your crowd!" One audience member called out, "We still love you!" and the president launched into his stump speech.

    Carney tried to convince reporters Tuesday that the crowd was yelling Boo-urns. No, wait, that was the response from every snarky journalist on Twitter. Carney insisted that the crowd was yelling "YOUK!"

    "Anyone who knows Boston and knows the Red Sox, and who was in that room, knows that the preponderance of people shouting in response to what the president said about Kevin Youkilis were saying 'Youk,' not 'Booo,' for God's sake," the spokesman insisted. He later acknowledged that there may have been some good-natured booing.

    But Carney defended the president's teasing of the crowd as a sign of virtue.

    "I don't think the American people appreciate it when politicians suddenly pretend they're fans of another team just to try to curry favor," the spokesman said.

    "The president is very serious about his sports. He will not do that. He will not cross that line."

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  • Syria slipping from Assad’s grasp, White House says

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warns Syria over escalating tensions (Burhan Ozbilici/AP)

    The White House highlighted news reports of high-level Syrian defections and fighting drawing closer to Damascus on Tuesday as signs that President Bashar Assad is "losing his grip" on his country some 15 months into a bloody crackdown on opposition to his rule.

    "Recent high-level military defections to Jordan and Turkey are another testament to the regime's loss of control over the situation in Syria," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

    "It is clear, however, that Assad is desperate to hang on to power at all cost, as evidenced by his continued use of air power and Shabiha gangs," who act as enforcers for the regime, Carney said.

    President Barack Obama  has expressed frustration over the weak international response to the bloodbath in Syria, where some observers estimate the death toll at 15,000. But efforts to tighten the screws on Assad's regime have foundered on opposition from China and Russia to increased sanctions. Republicans, notably Sen. John McCain, have repeatedly pressed the administration to do more to help Syria's rebels.

    [Related: Syria too dangerous for monitors, says U.N.]

    Tensions escalated over the weekend when Syrian forces apparently shot down a Turkish reconnaissance jet. Assad's government said it was hit over Syrian territory. The Turks said it had briefly strayed into Syrian airspace but was hit after crossing back into international jurisdiction.

    Turkey, a NATO member, took the incident to the alliance's governing body, which condemned Syria but gave no sign of any military response.

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a speech to his party's members in Turkey's parliament, warned Syria that he has ordered his country's armed forces to respond to any military threat from the regime in Damascus.

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  • Biden: Romney is a job creator ‘in Singapore, and China [and] India’

    Vice President Joe Biden address the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors earlier this month(John Raoux/AP)

    Vice President Joe Biden mounted an all-out assault on Mitt Romney's economic record on Tuesday, accusing him of creating jobs overseas but not in the United States.

    Biden also cited the former Massachusetts governor's Swiss bank account and money socked away in the Cayman Islands as evidence he was "out of touch" with the middle class, and bluntly charged that Romney has it in for "the American worker."

    "You've got to give Mitt Romney credit," the vice president said. "He is a job creator--in Singapore, and China, India. He's been very good at creating jobs overseas."

    The Romney campaign hit back, with spokeswoman Andrea Saul saying that Biden had "doubled down on the Obama campaign's same misleading attacks in an effort to distrat voters from the president's disastrous economic record."

    But the vice president's remarks to a boisterously supportive crowd in Waterloo, Iowa, reinforced what has become President Barack Obama's message on the sputtering recovery, the top issue on voters' minds and the incumbent's most glaring vulnerability. Obama has been arguing that the question on the ballot in November is not whether Americans are struggling three and a half years after he took office—they are—but how each candidate would boost the economy. He has painted Romney as an "outsourcing pioneer" whose policies have the intention or the effect of chiefly helping the wealthiest Americans. The Republican candidate has responded by accusing Obama of having a government-knows-best approach that has stifled job creation.

    The Obama campaign has been making political hay from a recent Washington Post report that linked Romney's Bain Capital investment firm to companies that shipped jobs overseas to places like China and India. The Washington Post's politics fact-checker had previously taken a dim view of such allegations, branding them completely false.

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  • Supreme Court risks overturning ‘decades of precedent’ with health care ruling, says Obama spokesman

    President Barack Obama boards Air Force One (Josh Reynolds/AP)

    The White House said Tuesday that the Supreme Court would be overturning "decades of precedent" if it finds the president's health care law unconstitutional in a much-anticipated ruling expected later this week.

    "We are, as I've said in the past, confident that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional, in keeping with decades of precedent under the Commerce Clause," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One. (He was referring to Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, which states that Congress shall have the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribe.")

    [Related: No 'spiking of the ball' if health law struck down, Boehner says]

    The Obama administration argued before the nine justices earlier this year that the Commerce Clause—often cited to justify congressional power over parts of the economy—means the so-called "individual mandate" that requires Americans to buy health insurance is constitutional. Conservatives have argued that the mandate is an unconstitutional power grab.

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  • New Obama ads say Romney shipped U.S. jobs to China, India

    President Barack Obama's re-election campaign has been working hard to convince voters that the election should be about what he and Mitt Romney would—or would not—do in the White House for the next four years. Team Obama's latest ads, running in Ohio, Iowa and Virginia, warn that the former Massachusetts governor will ship jobs overseas if he wins.

    The 30-second commercials harness a recent Washington Post report that linked Romney's Bain Capital investment firm to companies that shipped jobs overseas to places like China and India. The Washington Post's politics fact-checker has previously taken a dim view of such allegations.

    The Ohio version recycles a section of a Romney ad that gazes into the future to see "Day One: President Romney stands up to China."

    "But would he?" the Obama ad's narrator asks, pointing to the Washington Post piece. "Romney's never stood up to China. All he's ever done is send them our jobs."

    Romney campaign spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg accused the president of perpetuating "false and discredited attacks to divert attention from his abysmal economic record."

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