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Public Statements

CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Let's talk things over with the chair of the Democratic Party, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz. She's joining us from her district in Florida. Congresswoman, thanks very much for coming in. And we specifically went to those 15 battleground states that either leaning one way or another, but they're certainly not made up their minds.

Look at this. Among registered voters in those states, 51 percent now say they support Romney; 43 percent say they support Obama. I assume that's deep concern for you.

REP. DEBBIE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ (D), FLA.: Well, actually, if you look at the nationwide numbers in your poll, it is the 12th out of 13 polls in the RealClearPolitics average of polls that have President Obama up over Mitt Romney.

And in fact, the NBC poll done over that same period of time in 12 battleground states has President Obama up by 8 points over Mitt Romney. So I'm not sure if your poll is an outlier or if it's just that we can chalk up that where about 127 days from the election and we're focused on making sure that Americans understand that there are two visions and two paths laid out before them.

And the direction that they could go is dramatically different. President Obama will continue to fight to create jobs, turn the economy around and Mitt Romney and his allies in the Republican Party will try to drag us back to the failed policies of the past and, amazingly, focus on denying people health coverage and making sure that instead of getting the economy turned around, that we can focus on making sure that people who can't get healthy. It's kind of shocking.

BLITZER: (Inaudible). But you're right on the national numbers among registered voters nationwide, the president still have this lead, slightly, 49 percent; 46 percent for Romney. That's the same as it was in May. This is the first poll that was completely done since the Supreme Court decision upholding the president's health care reform law.

So it doesn't look like that's had an enormous difference. The battleground states, those are the numbers you're seeing now, though, 15 battleground states show Romney with a significant lead, 51-43 percent.

But we'll see other polls. We'll see if, in fact, those are outlier numbers or if they are consistent with other mainstream polls that will be coming out, no doubt, in the next several days and weeks.

Let's to the Supreme Court decision. The president, as you know, when he was running for office, he promised he would not raise taxes on the middle class. I'll play a clip of what he often said during his race for the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That's why I believe that every single American has the right to affordable, accessible health care.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: A right that should never be subject to Washington politics or industry profiteering, and that should never be purchased with tax increases on middle class families, because that is the last thing we need in an economy like this. Folks are already having a tough enough time.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. So here's the question, in the Supreme Court decision, they decided that the penalty, as it's called, was, in fact, a tax increase and most of the people who would pay that penalty, that tax increase, would be from the middle class. They wouldn't be making more than $200,000 a year, $250,000 a year. A lot of them are making a lot less.

So is this a violation of the president's commitment not to raise taxes on the middle class?

SCHULTZ: Well, what we do know is that both Mitt Romney and President Obama agree that the penalty in the Affordable Care Act for deciding to be a free rider, deciding to be irresponsible and not carry health insurance coverage, which costs every American more in their overall health care costs, that that is a penalty and not a tax.

In fact, Mr. Romney's spokesperson, Eric Fehrnstrom this morning specifically said that he agreed with President Obama, this is a penalty. What would happen is that you have a lot of folks -- it's about 1 percent of Americans that choose deliberately to be irresponsible and cost us all more money by using the emergency room as their primary access point for health care.

They roll the dice and when they show up to the emergency room, we all pay for their health care costs. That's why tongue depressors are $50 and hospital paper gowns are 85 bucks. And so what the penalty says is that, you know, we're not all going to pay for your being irresponsible.

BLITZER: All right.

SCHULTZ: And that, President Obama and Mitt Romney both agree on that. It -- the overwhelming majority of Americans are covered on health insurance. This would affect a very small percentage of free riders, who we shouldn't have to pay for.

BLITZER: Eric Fehrnstrom and you and some others may say it's just a penalty, that it's not a tax. But during the arguments before the Supreme Court, the president's own lawyer, the solicitor general, Donald Verrilli, he acknowledged point-blank in response to questions from John Roberts, the chief justice, that it was, in fact, a tax. Listen to this exchange they had.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN ROBERTS, SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: Are you telling me they thought of it as a tax, they defended it on a tax power? Why didn't they say it was a tax?

DONALD VERRILLI, U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: They might have thought, Your Honor, that calling it a penalty as they did would make it more effective in accomplishing its objectives. But it is in the Internal Revenue code. It is collected by the IRS on April 15th. I don't think this is a situation in which you can say --

ROBERTS: Well, that's the reason. They thought it might be more effective if they called it a penalty.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The solicitor general tells the Supreme Court representative the Obama administration, it is, in fact, a tax; it'll be administered by the IRS. It'll be collected on April 15th. Why can't you acknowledge that it's -- that it is, in fact, a tax?

SCHULTZ: Because it's a penalty. It's not a tax. It's a penalty that if you decide to be irresponsible, and continue to refuse to carry health insurance and make us all pay for your being irresponsible, then you can do that.

You know, we're not going to require that you have health insurance. What we're saying is if you choose not to carry health insurance, then you will be assessed a penalty that will be assessed on your tax return. And that affects about 1 percent of Americans who choose to do that.

BLITZER: So Donald Verrilli, Donald Verrilli, the solicitor general, was wrong? He didn't tell the truth to the Supreme Court?

SCHULTZ: No, on the contrary. What -- the way we usually think of taxation, Wolf, is that taxation, as the IRS administers it, is collected on broad swaths and large categories of individuals. This is a penalty that will be assessed on a tax return if you choose to roll the dice and make us all pay for your being irresponsible and increase all of our health care costs.

We're not going to tolerate that any more in America. You have to be responsible and you're going to pay a penalty if you choose not to be.

BLITZER: I have one final question. Why is the IRS administering this if it's not a tax? Isn't that their job, to impose taxes, to collect taxes, to punish people who don't pay taxes?

SCHULTZ: Well, because administratively, that's the -- that's really the easiest, most basic way to do it. It's the same way that they do it in Massachusetts. The Department of Revenue in Massachusetts, under RomneyCare, collects actually an even more significant, greater penalty.

This is modeled after the same way that the health care reform law championed by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts was handled. They have a penalty in Massachusetts under RomneyCare. It's administered by the Department of Revenue. It's simply a matter of ease in administration.

And, you know, at the end of the day, Wolf, what's important -- and I can tell you speaking as a breast cancer survivor, as someone who lives with a preexisting condition, this health care reform law is about people, not about politics.

The Republicans are obsessed with making sure that they can beat Barack Obama and deliver him a defeat at any turn. And rather than focus on job creation for the 129 million Americans who live with a preexisting condition, we find that outrageous.

Making sure insurance companies can't drop us or deny us coverage is now a thing of the past. And I hope the Republicans will stop opposing it and get on board and make sure we can get moved towards full implementation.

BLITZER: I'm going to have more on this --

SCHULTZ: It's the right thing to do.

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