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Obama silent while spokesman denies mandate is a tax

President Barack Obama waves as he boards Air Force One, for a flight to Ohio, Thursday, July 5, 2012, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

In an interview on CNN Thursday morning, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt said that President Obama disagrees with the Supreme Court’s ruling that the individual mandate in Obamacare is a tax.

Anchor Soledad O’Brien asked LaBolt: “His spokesman…said it’s a penalty. The Supreme Court has said it’s a tax. What does he believe?”

“That it’s a penalty,” LaBolt answered.  “You saw our arguments before the Supreme Court…”

“So then he disagrees with the Supreme Court decision that says it’s now a tax?” O’Brien asked.

“That’s right,” said LaBolt.  “He said that it’s a penalty.  You saw our arguments before the Court.”

At that point, O’Brien pointed out that the Obama administration’s solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, argued before the Court that if the justices chose not to find the mandate constitutional under the Commerce Clause, they could still uphold it because it is a tax, and Congress has broad power to levy taxes.

LaBolt then denied that the administration had ever made such an argument.  “It never referred to it as a — it never referred to it as a tax,” LaBolt said.  “It said that it was a penalty.  And that’s under the section of the law that is the tax code, but it said very specifically that it’s a penalty.”

Just a few days ago, a spokesman for the Romney campaign said that Mitt Romney, too, believed the mandate was a penalty.  But on Wednesday Romney specifically said that the Court ruling means the mandate is a tax.  Now, a spokesman for Obama is continuing to deny that the mandate is a tax.  But the one person who has remained silent about the issue is President Obama himself.  Where does he stand?  Does he believe the mandate is a tax?  Does he think the Supreme Court is wrong?  What is his position?