WOLFEBORO, N.H. -- Mitt Romney said Wednesday that requiring all Americans to buy health insurance amounts to a tax, contradicting a senior campaign adviser who days ago said the Republican presidential candidate viewed President Barack Obama's mandate as anything but a tax.
"The majority of the court said it's a tax, and therefore it is a tax. They have spoken. There's no way around that," Romney told CBS News. "You can try and say you wish they had decided a different way but they didn't. They concluded it was a tax."
Romney's comments amounted to a shift in position. Earlier in the week, senior adviser Eric Fehrnstrom said Romney viewed the mandate as a penalty, a fee or a fine -- not a tax.
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal requirement to buy health insurance or pay a penalty is constitutional because it can be considered a tax.
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The requirement is part of the healthcare overhaul that Obama signed into law in 2010.
An identical requirement was part of the state healthcare law that Romney enacted when he was governor of Massachusetts.
"The governor believes that what we put in place in Massachusetts was a penalty, and he disagrees with the court's ruling that the mandate was a tax," Fehrnstrom said Monday on MSNBC.
The back-and-forth within the GOP over what to call the mandate illustrates how difficult the healthcare issue is for Romney.
The law he signed as governor in 2006 moved Massachusetts toward universal coverage and became a blueprint for Obama's overhaul.
Both measures require individuals to have insurance, require that businesses offer healthcare to their employees and provide subsidies or exemptions for people who can't afford it.
Both also impose penalties on people who can afford health insurance but don't pay for it.