June 27th, 2012
05:38 PM ET
2 years ago

Romney once touted mandate he now deems unconstitutional

Sterling, Virginia (CNN) – The conventional wisdom in Washington is that the Supreme Court will hand President Barack Obama some kind of defeat to his health care law that could damage his re-election chances. But what's the political prognosis for Mitt Romney?

"My guess is that they are not sleeping very well at the White House tonight," Romney quipped at an event one day before the Supreme Court's expected ruling.

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The presumptive GOP nominee said if the Supreme Court opts against bringing down the law, he would do so as president.

"If I'm elected president we're going to repeal Obamacare and replace it with real reform," Romney said, though he avoided naming specific measures he would take as president to reform health care.

The president is warning voters to take Romney at his word.

"He wants to roll back the reforms that we put in place that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people who are sick. I believe it's the right thing to do," Mr. Obama said in a speech to supporters in Miami Tuesday.

Romney went further in his criticism of the law at a fundraiser in Atlanta earlier this month. At the event, the former Massachusetts governor argued the health care law deserves to be struck down.

"Gosh I hope they do the right thing and turn this thing down," Romney told a fundraiser in Atlanta earlier this month, according to pool reports. "And say it's unconstitutional because it is."

At the heart of the conservative complaints about the president's law is its individual mandate, which forces all Americans to buy health insurance, if they can afford it, or pay a fine.

As most voters now know, the president fashioned much of his law by borrowing heavily from the reform plan signed into law by Romney when he was governor of Massachusetts six years ago. The centerpiece of the Massachusetts plan is its own mandate.

In an interview with CNN in 2009, Romney touted the mandate as a free market alternative to the president's original plan that offered Americans the option to buy into a government insurance plan. That so-called "public option" was later dropped from the law.

"I think there are a number of features in the Massachusetts plan that could inform Washington on ways to improve health care for all Americans," Romney told CNN in 2009. "The fact that we were able to get people insured without a government option is a model I think they can learn from."

Romney explained his mandate, or "incentive" as he preferred to call it in the interview, was designed to achieve universal coverage.

"No more free riders. Everybody is part of the plan. And that way, we get the costs down. We let people know that they never have to worry about losing their coverage," Romney said in the interview.

Romney has since said on numerous occasions his plan was meant for Massachusetts only.

"Our plan was a state solution to a state problem, and his plan is a power grab by the federal government to put a one-size-fits-all plan across the nation," Romney said in a speech in the weeks before he jumped into the race last year.

This time around, he spent much of the primaries fighting off attacks from Rick Santorum and other rivals who complained Romney indeed supported a national mandate.

In March, Santorum stood on the steps of the Supreme Court to blast Romney as the "worst candidate" to take on the president on health care.

"There is one candidate who is uniquely disqualified. That's why I'm here and he's not," Santorum said.

The Democratic National Committee ran a web video in March featuring Romney's apparent defense of a national mandate that he made in a debate during his 2008 run for the presidency.

"No, no I like mandates," Romney said during the debate.

If the president's law is struck down, Romney has promised to bring back some of its protections for consumers.

"Fixing our health care system means making sure that every American, regardless of their health care needs, can find quality, affordable coverage," Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul said in a statement.

"That is why Governor Romney supports reforms to protect those with pre-existing conditions from being denied access to a health plan while they have continuous coverage," she added.

What's unknown is how a partial ruling against the president would affect both campaigns. A decision to uphold most of the law but strike down only the individual mandate could have unforeseen consequences.

The insurance industry has warned members of Congress of just that scenario.

"It is important to keep in mind that severing the individual mandate from market reforms in the (Affordable Care Act) could have a negative impact on individuals and families," the industry's lobby warns on its web site.

Also see:

McCaskill to skip Democratic convention

Poll: Obama, Romney race still tight

Obama: 'I hope you still believe in me'

Giuliani gives Turner a primary day boost


Filed under: 2012 • Health care • Mitt Romney
soundoff (133 Responses)
  1. margo

    This just means Romney was on the ground floor trying to find solutions. Obama was smart to follow, he should have reworked it enough to make it work.

    June 27, 2012 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  2. z

    another sign to get ron paul against obama. Did romney honestly think the news would ignore this embarrasing fact?

    June 27, 2012 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  3. Leigh2VA

    It's bad when both have done it ~ both Romney and Obama. Both are 'fails'.

    June 27, 2012 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  4. Mike

    The mandate is way too burdensome for the people to carry. It also gives way too much power to entities such as the IRS. There has to be a medium where we can afford to insure people in a responsible way. Not in a way in which we're threatened with fines and jail time.

    June 27, 2012 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  5. Bill in Florida

    The GOP and hypocrisy go hand-in-hand.

    June 27, 2012 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  6. Trevor

    Listen, Romney reminds me of the popular kid in high school. The one who has a pack of cronies following him around like lap dogs. The kind of person who will say or do anything, hurt others, so long as it meets his own self-serving interest. He knows he can get away with it. Anyone who disagrees with him will be ridiculed into shame and beat up in the bathrooms after 3rd period. I think he is morally disgusting.

    June 27, 2012 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  7. Not you

    Every politician "flip flops". Even the great Obama. It's funny to me that whenever a "forward " thinker has a change of mind, it's considered progress and when an "old fashioned " thinker changes positions it's considered a flip flop. Double standard?

    June 27, 2012 10:05 pm at 10:05 pm |
  8. Leroy

    I just wish Mitt Romney, the Vietnam War draft-dodger, would keep his cowardedly mouth shut!

    June 27, 2012 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  9. Mike in Texas

    When Romney was on Leno earlier this year Leno told him that he knew guys who never had insurance because of a pre existing condition. Now they do. Leno asked Romney what would would happen to them. All Romney kept repeating was if they had continuous coverage they would still get insurance. Leno kept telling him they never had it before so would they lose it under Romney. Again he answered the question with the same line. He never said yes or no because the answer was no.

    June 27, 2012 10:25 pm at 10:25 pm |
  10. Eric

    The idea of a mandate, while once a conservative notion, is a bad idea that will do nothing to bring down costs, just spread them out a bit. A mandate is fundamentally anti-competitive, to actually reduce costs, introduce measures that increase competition, like requiring all care providers to bill cash customers at the best rate available to insured customers. That way uninsured people could afford to visit a doctor for minor issues and preventative care, and insurers would need to demonstrate value beside negotiation rates.

    June 27, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  11. lamestreammedia

    A decision to uphold most of the law but strike down only the individual mandate could have unforeseen consequences.

    Though Obama-poodle CNN wont mention this, the "forseen consequence" would be Obama would be thumped in the Novermber election.

    June 27, 2012 10:39 pm at 10:39 pm |
  12. Ins1te

    Etch-a-sketch strikes again. Why don't these Republicants just admit that whenever a Democrat embraces the very ideas they touted, that it's automatically rejected. This from the party that focused on making Pres. Obama a 1 term president instead of focusing on job creation. Didn't Republicans run on jobs in 2010? Well?

    June 27, 2012 11:06 pm at 11:06 pm |
  13. JL

    If I were Romney I’d tell everyone what they wanted to hear and then once elected I’d sell off America in little pieces cause it’s worth more that way!

    June 27, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  14. Joan

    Does he think people are stupid? This is the mother of all flip-flops. Are there any issues that he has not flip-flopped on? How can his word be trusted when he changes his mind so often? If he becomes President and repeals this health care plan then shouldn't he tell Massachusettes that they have to ditch their "unconstitutional" plan also? This is just so hypocritcal. It is "Do as I say not what I do".

    June 27, 2012 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  15. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    So, how is what Romney did for his state different than what the Obama administration got Congress to pass? I need a better explanation as to the difference and what Romney is going to offer in replacement? That needs to be explained. He seemed only to be saying what Obama has done is wrong.

    June 27, 2012 11:20 pm at 11:20 pm |
  16. Jake

    ObamaCare is RomneyCare 2.0. If Mitt is elected (Oh, please no), the White House would be known as the Waffle House. He serves up more waffles than Denny's.

    June 27, 2012 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  17. MikeB

    Unlike Obama, Romney isn't intransigent. And knows where certain ideas work and they don't.
    Obama is stuck on stereotyping his ideas as being for the good of everyone and will do anything to push it upon 'everyone'.

    June 27, 2012 11:29 pm at 11:29 pm |
  18. geraldo

    If Barack Obama wins re-election, the national debt will stand at $22 trillion when he leaves office in Jan. 2017.

    $11 trillion of debt built up from George Washington to George Bush.
    $11 trillion of debt built up by a single President – Obama.

    Not bad for one administration. You would think with that debt we would at least get medicare reform, tax reform, social security reform and real immigration reform. Yet the President has no plan for any of those.

    June 27, 2012 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  19. KeepinItReal

    If I become president I will veto the "Dream Act" and immigrants should self-deport. Now he wants to get rid of the health care law that he agrred with when he was governor. If the president says yes, Mittens says no. What a jerk!

    June 27, 2012 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  20. israel

    obama is right to try and get real healthcare reform, however he is wrong by trying to force it upon people using the federal government

    i believe obama is on the right path, but the plan's he put foward need more work done to them, the supreme court will make that clear tomorrow.....there are certain parts that certainly could be unconstitutional, it's unfortunate that congress refused to work across the aisle on this issue it could've been done much much better

    June 27, 2012 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  21. Hoosier2012

    Do anything, say anything so he can get elected. Lie, lie, lie,lie,lie, and lie....Are we blind enough to elect someone with this character to be a leader of the free world?

    June 27, 2012 11:58 pm at 11:58 pm |
  22. snowdogg

    Mitt will say anything the Tea Party wants to hear to get elected.

    June 28, 2012 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  23. John in Cal

    He's doing the Texas two step. I find him to be a weak minded person. Which means you can't trust him and trust is nessessary to being a President

    June 28, 2012 12:26 am at 12:26 am |
  24. Avi

    If the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare all the people that would have benefited from that law would be enraged and Obama's chances of wining should actually improve significantly. Why is the media and everyone else making this look otherwise??

    June 28, 2012 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  25. nolimits3333

    “I’m not familiar with precisely what I said, but I stand by what I said, whatever it was." – Mitt Romney

    June 28, 2012 12:31 am at 12:31 am |
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