Health care law anniversary puts Romney in spotlight
April 11th, 2011
12:02 PM ET
11 years ago

Health care law anniversary puts Romney in spotlight

Washington (CNN) - A top aide to Mitt Romney is pushing back against Democrats attempts to highlight Tuesday's fifth anniversary of the signing by the former Massachusetts governor of a universal health care law in the Bay state.

The measure, which has been criticized by some fellow Republicans, could hurt Romney with GOP primary and caucus voters if he decides, as expected, to make another run for the White House.

Massachusetts Democrats are holding a party Tuesday to mark the occasion, including a "Thank You Mitt Romney" cake. And next door in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the race for the White House, Democratic party officials are urging supporters to tweet Romney to thank him for standing "shoulder-to-shoulder with Senator Kennedy to sign Massachusetts' historic health care reform law."

But senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tells CNN that "somehow I'm not surprised that Democrats are sitting around eating cake while 14 million unemployed Americans are struggling to put food on their table."

On April 12, 2006, the then Republican governor in a state dominated by Democrats, signed into law a health care plan that would insure almost every resident of Massachusetts. At the time, it was praised by supporters of health care reform as a landmark achievement for Romney. The lynchpin of the law was an insurance mandate that required the people of Massachusetts to get health insurance.

Former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who is expected to make a run for the GOP presidential nomination, has been critical of the Massachusetts law, as has former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who ran for the White House in 2008 and may make another bid for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Romney addressed his record in a March speech, explaining the law was a "state plan intended to address problems that were in many ways unique to Massachusetts."

"Our experiment wasn't perfect. Some things worked. Some didn't. And some things I'd change," Romney said. "One thing I would never do is to usurp the constitutional power of states with a one-size-fits-all federal takeover."

And last year Romney supported conservative candidates who wanted to repeal the president's health care reform law.

But in an interview with CNN in 2009, as Washington was debating President Barack Obama's health care proposal, Romney said portions of the Massachusetts law could serve as a model for the country.

"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 at the time. "The fact that we were able to get people insured without a government option is a model I think they can learn from."

Democrats, including President Obama himself, have recently praised Romney's 2006 law for setting the stage for health care reform on the national stage.

"In fact, I agree with Mitt Romney, who recently said he's proud of what he accomplished on health care in Massachusetts and supports giving states the power to determine their own health care solutions," Obama said earlier this year.

The strategy here appears to be two-fold: Hurt Romney in the battle for the GOP nomination by tying him to the national health care reform law, which is despised by many Republicans. Many Tea Party movement activists and other conservatives view the national law's insurance mandate as unconstitutional. If Romney wins the nomination, Democrats hope comparisons of the national health care law to what Romney did in Massachusetts will soften opposition by independents and moderate Republicans to the president's health care measure.

The insurance mandate in "Romneycare" wasn't a major liability in the governor's first presidential run in 2008 because Obama's health care law wasn't born yet.

–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn

Filed under: Health care • Mitt Romney
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Mitt can't distance himself from this issue no matter what he does. I want a slice of that cake.

    April 11, 2011 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  2. Me

    Wait, I've heard this before - "I was for it before I was against it." Isn't that how it goes. Of course, Senator Kerry had his thoughts on that particular matter in the correct order. Mittens? On his own issue? Not so much.

    April 11, 2011 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  3. Four and The Door

    But did Romney give unions a $60 billion gift in his bill? No. Did Romney cram it through because his party had enough votes to just buy a few stragglers and use an exotic procedural maneuver to get it in under the wiire? No.
    And did Romney do this relying on smoke and mirror funding that put future citizens on the hook for billions of dollars? At a time when the economy was tanking with no turnaround in sight? After just blowing $3 trillion on a jobs bill that had a snowball's chance in hell of working? No. That was Obama. That was ObamaCare.

    April 11, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  4. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Because the majority of concervatives don't like it, Romney had to distance himself from it. What needs to be done is check if people are really healthier because of the law.

    April 11, 2011 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  5. Rudy NYC

    Romney has already missed his best chance to win the GOP nomination, which was 2008. He came across as a bit disconnected with the average voter.

    April 11, 2011 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  6. Video Guy

    Thank You Mitt Romney for our reformed Health Insurance Bill. Your not qualified to serve as President or even pick up after First Dog, but thanks anyway

    April 11, 2011 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  7. head

    Romney's big government philosophy will shine through as it will with Huck and the other GOP contenders. It's a false choice. Anyone the GOP picks will be big government just as Obama is with the only difference being where to grow the government. Dems want to grow the government here at home while repubs wish to grow our empire abroad. Either way we'll be a much poorer country in the next 10 years, with an ever declining standard of living....

    April 11, 2011 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  8. head

    Correction....with this whole Libya mess and escalating the war in Afghanistan the Dems now wish to grow the empire, too..... ugggh

    April 11, 2011 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  9. Mark

    What?!!! A Republican that figured out a compromise to work with a Democrat? Sign me up! Most of us were hoping Obama could figure out how to be multi-deminsional and work with others outside his party just as Clinton and Reagan did. He probably wants to – but he's a puppet with strings. He sure can give a good speech, though.
    Romney 2012!

    April 11, 2011 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  10. Fair is Fair

    "Mitt can't distance himself from this issue no matter what he does. I want a slice of that cake."

    Pretty sad when the democrats have to attack a republican on an issue they're supposedly compatico on, don't you think?

    April 11, 2011 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  11. Big Al

    Only Sarah Palin can save our country. Would love to see her as president and her daughter Bristol as Secretary of State. Only then will America become #1.

    She would be the only one to have the guts to establish a Dept. of Morals and appoint Oral Roberts as secretary.

    April 11, 2011 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  12. egore

    It would seem that Romney's chances for capturing the nomination are slim. The Christian right don't trust him because of his religion, which they consider nothing more than a cult. Further, the tea party types don't trust him because of the health care policy he enacted while governor. Finaly, during the 2008 debates his attempts to come across as a red meat conservative were ludicrious. Too bad, even though I would not vote for the man, he would make a better President, for all the people, than the rest of the Republican pretenters to the job.

    April 11, 2011 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  13. Punctus

    So...Mitt's defense is that his healthcare plan is good for Massachusetts but not for the rest of us? I guess the rest of us should just eat cake?

    April 11, 2011 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  14. james Miller

    Yes, he can talk out of both sides of his mouth at the same time.

    April 11, 2011 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  15. Peter E

    Let's see the republican contenders so far:
    Romney – criticizes Obama for policies he himself enacted in his own state
    Huckabee – wants schools to teach creationism
    Pawlenty – claims he didn't raise 'taxes...' he just raised 'state fees' as governor
    Gingrich – twice divorced, now claims to be a Catholic conservative
    Bachman – wants to do away with schools and have children taught by their parents whatever they want
    Palin – apparently has an opinion about everything... but always only after waiting to hear from other pundits what that opinion should be
    Santorum – who thinks any position other than missionary should be outlawed

    April 11, 2011 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  16. Lolo

    @four and the door. You really need to stop watching Fox News. They have gotten you all confused boo. Put away your raicist pitchfork. You are on this website too much. Please ask the GOP and Tea partiers when the jobs are coming? Don't forget to check with your pals at fox news also, because you have too much time on your hands. You see us educated liberals have our jobs.

    April 11, 2011 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  17. Troy

    Dems better hope Romney doesn't get the nomination. He will unseat their precious messiah of a president. That is change I can hope for...

    April 11, 2011 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  18. Thank God I am a Democrat

    "But senior Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom tells CNN that "somehow I'm not surprised that Democrats are sitting around eating cake while 14 million unemployed Americans are struggling to put food on their table."

    Spare us. How about you using the unemployeed as a way to discontinue this conversation about Romneycare and the reality that it played a major role in todays Health Care Reform. Even the repubs know what you are doing. Next please!

    April 11, 2011 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  19. zazu

    The problem might just be that now the average guy who couldn't see the benefit of the Health care act first hand will see it in light of Ryan's budget and start to fall hard in love with Obama's plan. Republican's can no longer demonize (by lying that is) that the health care law hurts medicare. When America sees that Republicans true color in their attempt to dismantle medicare and medicaid, they will see the benefit!

    April 11, 2011 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  20. zazu


    I am surprised to see you preparing to vote for this man who signed "a socialist, unconstitutional (the ind mandate remember), medicare destroying, government grab of our health-care system" in to law!

    April 11, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  21. The Real Tom Paine

    @ DemoCommunists for a Better Way – Steal the Wealth, Bankrupt America, Blame the "rich" (people who work):

    Hate to break the bad news to you, but the GOP controlled the governor's mansion in MA for severl years prior to Mittens getting in there. He never made any attempt to veto it because he wanted to tout the " cost containment" of his mandated insurance. He boasted about it being a win-win for everyone: now he has done a 180 on his signature accomplishment because its a "government mandate", and reverses everything he said in public about it. If he had won the nomination and the presidency in 2008, you can bet he would have used that as a model. Now, because he has all the ambition of Lucifer and you have fallen for the pitch of the Tea Baggers, you just slam him for not ahving the spine to stand up to those nasty Democrats: btw, do you live in a Red State, you know, one of those that get more money back from DC than they put in? You seem to post a lot on here, and always have the same ignorant, hate-filled points that come from places that think secession and nullification are wonderful things.

    April 11, 2011 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  22. mike kerns

    perfect republican cadidate for president liar liar pants on fire

    April 11, 2011 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  23. Yikes!

    It's absolutely a shame how a law the helps people that really need help is a determent to getting the Republician nomination. Let's all re-think our priorities.

    April 11, 2011 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |