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Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller expressed surprise and disappointment today at the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama’s health care overhaul.
The fact the court found the law constitutional based on the government’s taxing authority, Zoeller said, contradicts promises by President Barack Obama and congressional leaders that penalties imposed against those who do not purchase healthcare insurance amount to taxation.
“I think there will be a passionate response to that finding,” Zoeller said. “I will be very interested in hearing the response to the courts having found that it is a tax and that (Obama and congressional leaders) have misled the American people.”
Zoeller was one of the attorneys general from 26 states who argued against the federal healthcare law’s inclusion of an individual mandate requiring that all Americans purchase healthcare insurance.
Under the law, those who make no arrangement to purchase healthcare insurance are fined $685 on their federal tax forms. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the healthcare law’s constitutionality by defining the penalty as a tax.
“The federal judge in Florida before whom we argued would not allow the argument of the taxing authority to be raised because both the president and the Congress told the American public that it was not a tax,” Zoeller said. “At the Supreme Court level, there was the argument regarding the taxing authority on the first day.”
Many of those on both sides of the debate had assumed arguments would hinge on the Constitution’s commerce clause, not federal taxing power.
In a panel discussion at the National Press Club, Zoeller recalled, he once said the only way the healthcare legislation might be upheld would be on the basis of taxing authority. He ultimately doubted it would come down to that issue, however.
Zoeller expressed hope that those on all sides would remain polite in their discussions of the court’s decision.
“I would encourage everyone to maintain civility and respect for the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said, “whether you agree or disagree with the court’s opinion.”
The attorney general has no regrets, he said, about the ultimately unsuccessful efforts he invested arguing against the law.
“I still maintain it was not a frivolous case,” Zoeller said. “It was well worth our efforts to challenge the constitutionality. It will give us guidance on what authority the federal government has and doesn’t have.”