June 27th, 2012
05:38 PM ET
10 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. 1zb1

    So according Romeny and the Republicans when they do something its an "incentive" but when the President and Democrats do the same exact thing its a "mandate". And when an individual state does something its good but if you do it for all the states its bad. Talk about the ultimate hypocrisy, Romney and the Republicans own it. These people really make me sick not just for their hypocrisy but their stupidiy.

    Where is the outrage in the American People? Where is the outrage over their giving tax cuts to the rich when our young men and woman are in harms way? What is wrong with these people?

    June 28, 2012 07:31 am at 7:31 am |
  2. TomA

    It's Romney, so it's ok.

    If Obama had flip flopped then it's an issue.

    Also off limits, discussing Bain Capital details.

    June 28, 2012 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  3. enough already?!?

    Well, I voted for our President and I'm in favor of some type of universal health care... BUT why must it be forced on ALL Americans?? Is there a way to make this optional? (SigH)...

    June 28, 2012 07:37 am at 7:37 am |
  4. Oshis

    The Tenth Amendment states the Constitution's principle of federalism by providing that powers not granted to the federal government nor prohibited to the States by the Constitution are reserved to the States or the people.

    Let me break that down. If the federal governement cant/wont do it, and a state says its ok the state reserves the right to pass the law. Romneys healthcare was a state affair. He was absolutely within bounds of the Constitution. Get it Libs?

    June 28, 2012 07:44 am at 7:44 am |
  5. levi

    That is fine Mitt if you do not like the plan as is, but please tell us what you are proposing to fix it. Don't keep us in the dark.

    June 28, 2012 07:49 am at 7:49 am |
  6. rooster

    Unfortunately the federal govt is limited by the commerce clause to the constitution. so a law with anindividual mandate can be unconstitutional if enacted by the federal govt but ok by a state.

    June 28, 2012 07:50 am at 7:50 am |
  7. rude

    After all the millions spent villifying healthcare, websites devoted to its demise, Limpaugh blue in the face from bashing it only to have the rank n file vote Rmoneycare???? What gives, propagada did not work?

    June 28, 2012 07:51 am at 7:51 am |
  8. Chris

    Romney's plan treated the mandate as a tax. Had President Obama treated the "mandate" as a "tax", his healthcare plan would be flawed, but still constitutional. However, he had to structure the funding mechanism without appearing to raise taxes hence the universal mandate. In candor, after President Obama took office, the Democrats were unable to create a workable healthcare plan that EVEN Senator Reid and Representative Pelosi could agree upon. Before anybody shrills about obstructionist Republicans, the Democrats in the House and Senate had a majority that would prevent any real Republican opposition. (If you are curious, look at the Senate's website to see who actually has filled more closures in the past three congresses) So whether you support or not support universal healthcare, one has got to wonder how President Obama (a former professor of constitutional law), Senator Reid, and Representative Pelosi screwed this plan up so bad that it is being ruled unconstitutional?

    June 28, 2012 07:54 am at 7:54 am |
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