Below are some of the notable comments made Sunday on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.” Guests included wife of former Sen. Ted Kennedy Vicki Kennedy, White House chief of staff Jack Lew, Rep. Paul Ryan, Keith Olbermann, ABC News’ George Will, Democratic strategist and ABC News contributor Donna Brazile, former Rep. Artur Davis and “Nightline” co-anchor Terry Moran.
KENNEDY: This health care reform was the cause of my husband’s life. He believed that it was a moral issue, that it defined the character of who we were as a society, who we were as a country, and that decent, quality, affordable health care should be a fundamental right and not a privilege. And now all three branches of our federal government have affirmed that right. And I think if Teddy were here, he would tell us now it’s time to roll up our sleeves, get to work, fully implement the law, and move on with the business of our country.
KENNEDY: I think he felt very strongly in health care reform. He had studied this issue for more than 40 years. He believed in it. He believed in its constitutionality. He had looked at it in every way. And I think he would have been pleased, but not surprised.
LEW: If you look at where we are now versus where we were a couple of years ago, the American people are starting to experience the benefits of this law. For students who are getting out of college and didn’t have a job, they can stay on their parents’ health plan. For senior citizens who were paying $600 in what was called the donut hole, the Medicare, that’s now something that they don’t have to pay for. For families with children with pre-existing conditions, they don’t have to worry about lifetime limits or about whether those pre-existing conditions means that they won’t have insurance. This is something that will provide security and protection for America’s families, and they’re beginning to see it. They’re beginning to experience it. I think that the American people do not want to go back to a divisive debate about health care. The Congress passed the law. The Supreme Court ruled it constitutional. The arguments that are being made now to reopen that fight are the wrong arguments. What we need to be doing is focusing on growing the economy and growing jobs for the middle class.
Jack Lew Refuses to Say Tax
LEW: For that one percent who have chosen not to buy health insurance, and just to pass the burden on to others, there’s this penalty.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you do concede, you keep wanting to use the word penalty. You do concede that the law survived only because Justice Roberts found this to be a tax?
LEW: You know, I – I think if you look at the decision, which is a very complicated one, there are arguments that support different theories. There were… (crosstalk)
STEPHANOPOULOS: But the argument of Chief Justice Roberts is that it’s a tax.
LEW: He – He went through the different powers that Congress has and found that there is a power, whatever you call it, to assess a penalty like this.
STEPAHNOPOULOS: He called it a tax.
LEW: (smiling, no response)
STEPHANOPOLOUS: So you’re conceding that?
LEW: I’m saying that it was set up as a penalty for people who choose not to buy insurance, even though they can afford it, and for that one percent, we call it fair.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And he calls it a tax. I’m going to move on now at this point.
Rep. Paul Ryan
RYAN: The broken promises and the hypocrisy are becoming breathtaking from the president who says one thing to get this past Congress and then another thing to get it past the Supreme Court. If this was brought to the public as a tax, there’s no way this law would have passed into law in the first place. That’s what’s so frustrating and disappointing with this law.
RYAN: Health care and the economy. Look, this is the most important election in our lifetimes. This ruling — and I guess this was John Roberts’ thinking — he raised the stakes of this election higher than it could have been raised. This election is a choice of two futures. Do you want a government-centered society in a government-driven economy and government-rationed health care? Or do you want the American opportunity society with a safety net, a free economy, economic freedom, personal liberty? That’s what we want. That’s the American idea. We have one more chance as a people to get that back, and that chance is going to come on November the 6th.
RYAN: If you allow the market to work to appeal to consumers — no, but what I would say is, if you take a look at a lot of the comprehensive plans many of us have authored, it does address these things. What I’m trying to tell you, George, is we can address these legitimate problems and needs without a government takeover. I think this, at the end of the day, is a big philosophy difference. What — what Mrs. Kennedy and others were saying is this is new government-granted right. We disagree with the notion that our rights come from government, that the government can now grant us and define our rights. Those are ours. Those come from nature and God, according to the Declaration of Independence, a huge difference in philosophy. And so what we’re saying is, there are principles and reforms that we could have passed into law, which we still want to, that address these legitimate problems without putting the government in such a central role in our lives and in our economy, which we think is going to hurt our economy, bring us toward a debt crisis, and — and make the American health care system that much worse.
OLBERMANN: Every day in our lives we are subjected to the largest mandate any of us could ever have. We have to buy a product each day called the United States government. That mandate supplies everything from wars that we don’t go along with, to solicitor generals we disagree with, to the salaries of the Supreme Court justices. So I think if you look at this from a layman’s point of view, I think it’s a pretty clear-cut victory for the president.
WILL: Three things about Justice Roberts: he’s not a fool, he’s not a liberal and he’s 57. He’s going to be here for 20 more years, at least, through three or more presidencies. And he’s going to be building upon new ways of circumscribing the latitude of Congress in particular, but the federal government in general.
BRAZILE: Obamacare is Romneycare at a federal level. If it’s a tax or a penalty in Massachusetts, well, it’s a tax or a penalty, because the IRS, if you fail to obtain — opt out of health insurance, then you’ll be penalized. Look, tax is one of those — the word tax is something politicians from both sides try to avoid. So maybe we should call it a penalty, call it something else.
DAVIS: A lot of people know, a lot of low-income people who believe, because of all the political arguments being spend them the last week, well, they think they’ve got coverage now. They’re going to find that if they live in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, where their governors turn it down, they’re not insured. Three years from now, they’ll have less confidence in government.
MORAN: if you think that some of Chief Justice Roberts’ opinion is logically torturous, read the dissent on striking down the whole law. They plow through lots of precedent in order to do that. But not for the first time here. The big-picture question — not for the first time; George Will is right and Glenn Beck is wrong.