Boehner: "Vegetable argument" applies to taxes, too

  • (CBS News) The "vegetable argument" used by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Jr., to strike down the commerce clause as a means for Congress to force Americans to buy health insurance is just as applicable to the taxation powers which upheld the Affordable Care Act, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, argued Thursday.

    Addressing the court's ruling, which deemed the individual mandate in President Obama's signature health care law constitutional only as a tax, Boehner said he "respects" Roberts' decision but disagrees and will work to repeal it.

    Roberts wrote in his opinion that that the price for not buying insurance acted effectively as a tax, and thus the law would survive as such. But Roberts disagreed with the Obama administration's interpretation of the commerce clause as granting Congress power to require customers to buy a market's product, arguing that "under the government's theory, Congress could address the diet problem by ordering everyone to buy vegetables."

    Boehner agreed, but said the broccoli scenario also applies to the individual mandate as a tax.

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    "The chief justice, in his opinion, outlines the fact that the commerce clause - trying to expand on the commerce clause is not constitutional - but because it's a tax, that he can proceed," Boehner told reporters following the ruling. "So the government could decide that we're gonna tax you if you don't eat broccoli on Tuesday. Apparently that's in our Constitution. But I don't think it's a very wise law."

    Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., dodged questions about whether she believes, as the president does, that the individual mandate is not a tax.

    "Call it what you will - it is a step forward for America's families," Pelosi told reporters. "And you know what? Take yes for an answer. This is a very good thing for the American people. What you're talking about here is Washington talk."

    "Technical terms, that's for us here," she continued. "What means something to the American people is what it does to them."

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    Lindsey Boerma is senior video producer for CBSNews.com.

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