MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
And now to the deputy whip in the House of Representatives, Republican Peter Roskam, congressman of Illinois. Welcome back to the program.
REPRESENTATIVE PETER ROSKAM: Thank you.
BLOCK: We heard the president today call this a victory for people all over the country, millions of uninsured people gaining insurance. Why not a victory?
ROSKAM: Well, the Supreme Court today confirmed that this is a tax and, in fact, it's a massive tax on the American people. And I think one of the reasons it's not a victory is there was a lost opportunity. There was a national consensus around two core issues when President Obama first came to office. One was that health care costs are too high and the second is we need to deal with preexisting conditions.
Rather than focusing in on that, the administration moved in a different direction and now has created an act that is making health care costs go up, is decreasing coverage and cost $1.5 trillion that we don't have. So I think it needs to be repealed. It needs to be replaced with something far more thoughtful. So I wouldn't call it a victory for the public today.
BLOCK: Let's just stipulate that a lot of those numbers that we just heard are very much in debate. And there are lots of ranges of numbers on both sides of that.
But I want to ask you this, the individual mandate that's at the core of the law and that was at the core of the reasoning in the court today, was a Republican idea. It goes quite a ways back, from conservative economists, support from the think tank the Heritage Foundation and Republicans in Congress. Why is it such anathema now?
ROSKAM: Well, it's anathema because it's a mandate with no end in sight. So some justices on the court made it clear if the Congress has the ability to compel you to purchase a private product, sold by an individual private company, where does that authority end? Now, they moved that into taxing authority so they said that you can do it. But the larger question is how come we're not seeing more job creation that's coming out of this? That was one of the things that was promised.
And there's about 30 percent of employers, according to some studies, are now suggesting that they're not going to be offering coverage based on his health care law.
BLOCK: I've seen a lot of other studies that really take that number and say it's way exaggerated; that the numbers are anything but that...
ROSKAM: Well, let me give you an example in suburban Chicago - a district that I represent. So, I represent quite a few small manufacturers who have individually talked to me. And they said if this mandate goes through we're not going to be able to afford coverage. There's a restaurateur in Lake County, Illinois, who has said he currently has 65 employees. If the act is upheld, he's going to get rid of 15 employees so he's underneath the threshold. So, it's substantive and it's consequential.
BLOCK: The reasoning from Chief Justice Roberts in the majority opinion is fascinating, because he basically said, look, this is does not compel anyone to buy health insurance. What it does is it imposes a tax and that's entirely within the purview of Congress to do. So it's not saying that this is forcing something down the throat of Americans.
ROSKAM: Well, that's an interesting point because the administration made the exact opposite argument during the presentation of the bill, in the House and in the Senate. So, the administration was arguing in the alternative. In one sense, they said were using the Commerce Clause. And now, the court is saying no, you don't have the authority under the Commerce Clause - this is a tax.
And so, I think the president is going to be answering this question ultimately on November 6th. So on this date the court has said it's constitutional. But the last word goes for the American public.
BLOCK: Congressman Roskam, thanks for talking with us.
ROSKAM: Thank you.
BLOCK: That's Republican Peter Roskam of Illinois. He's the deputy whip in the House of Representatives. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright National Public Radio.