June 27th, 2012
05:38 PM ET
8 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. Clugs

    I'm no fan of Mitt, but I really don't understand why people are so upset with politicians changing their views over time. Don't you want someone (Obama or Mitt) that learns from the past and makes adjustments accordingly? Obama was against gay marriage now he's for it. If you hate Mitt for changing positions, apply that same logic to Obama (and vice versa). This country is so divided, I really don't know that we can ever be made whole again, no matter who is leading.

    June 27, 2012 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  2. HenryB

    @once upon a horse – I agree that Romney flips and flops. The problem is when you say it is no longer news. We must keep it news because it speaks to the issue of credibility and character. The Repubs made Kerry's so-called flip flops a big issue in the 2004 campaign. Let us return the favor and point out that Romney has no soul and no convictions other than those that benefit him at the moment. I think President Obama will make mince meat out of Romney during the debates by simply quoting Romney on his "convictions" (whatever they are).

    June 27, 2012 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  3. Meade21

    No.....Let's get it right...Romney evolved in his thoughts on health care.......why is it that Republicans are accused of flip flopping and the Dems evolve? Total crap....

    June 27, 2012 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  4. deb

    The usual repub hypocrisy. The mandate was a Heritage Foundation idea that was touted by Newt Gingrich himself. Now that Obama has put it in the HCA, the repubs are against it and consider it unconstitutional? Unbelievable.

    June 27, 2012 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  5. jane

    Come November 2012....Romney will LOSE the election

    June 27, 2012 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  6. Chrismpls

    Perhaps Romney's view of health care "evolved" over time. Apparently that's a perfectly acceptable explanation for libs so let's go with that.

    June 27, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  7. Johnny DC

    Which part of Romney's plan was localized to his state do you liberals not understand?

    Government was meant to start at the local level first, with a very limited (thus enumerated) set of powers going up the chain to the federal government.

    To say that Romney must be in favor of federal control because he advocated it at the state level is moronic and a weak argument, not unlike just about every other passion-driven argument spewed by liberal drones. One side has the law. One side has logic. One side operates on behalf of everyone rather than targeting some against others. That side is our side. Conservatives in 2012.

    June 27, 2012 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. us_1776

    Romney is now calling Romneycare, I mean Obamacare, a moral failure.

    This is the same type of law that Romney pushed through in Massachusetts.


    June 27, 2012 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  9. Anonymous

    And Obama was opposed to the mandate during the 2008 Democratic primaries when Clinton was for it. Oddly enough, CNN isn't writting an article about that.

    June 27, 2012 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  10. Patriot

    The GOP claims they want health care to remain in the free market. This is the way to do it. If their (the GOP's) mandate idea is shot down tomorrow, the next healthcare reform with either be single payer or socialization, and all because they turned against their idea because Obama turned to it. They're not even thinking. They are so raptured with hate they won't even admit they were right.

    June 27, 2012 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  11. Larry L

    Republicans don't seem to care about Romney's lack of true convictions. I suspect the fat-cats just know he'll give them a blank check and the Tea Party radicals know he's white.

    June 27, 2012 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  12. PADoc1

    Christ this guy scares me!

    June 27, 2012 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  13. Are you kidding me?

    The GOP will NEVER agree with our president or admit their prior stances on issues that our president has embraced.

    June 27, 2012 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  14. Cindy

    Romney, the Bain Capial hatchet man, just follows the money. Whatever they want him to say. He doesn't stand for anything personally. Just whatever someone wants to pay for. Sold to the highest bidder.

    June 27, 2012 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  15. BunnyBunny

    Mitt Romney once touted everything he is against now. He flops and flips and lies like no one I have ever seen in my life.

    June 27, 2012 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  16. Rob in MO

    The mandate was a republican idea. It was first proposed by the conservative Heritage Foundation in 1989. It was part of the republican alternative to the Clinton reform plan in 1994. Romney thought it was wonderful in 2006. Demint thought it was great. Republicans were raving about it up until Obama included it in healthcare reform. Suddenly, it's unconstituional. The mandate is clearly constitutional under the commerce clause. If healthcare isn't interstate commerce nothing is. It is absolutely necessary to include as many healthy people in insurance pools if insurance companies are required to cover folks with pre-existing conditions. People don't understand – 90% support coverage of pre-existing conditions; 70% oppose the mandate – 2 completely mutually exclusive positions. You cannot have one without the other.

    June 27, 2012 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  17. David

    Mitt has no integrity, he waffles and panders on everything.

    June 27, 2012 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  18. normajean @ verizon ,com

    Romneys " sleepless" nights should be just beginning......As time passes he has even less believability and solidity in his run for president. He takes no position on what he will accomplish but is quite vocal when saying what our president WON'Taccomplish. His record in Massachusetts and the unemployed from his questionable business exploits speak for themselves.!!!

    June 27, 2012 09:19 pm at 9:19 pm |
  19. mojoquasi

    Is this news? Isn't it obvious now, even to CNN, that Romney tells whatever lie is necessary to get him into the White House. Just think, if he does get there, we will never know from one day to the next whether he's lying to us or not. What a terrific prospect.

    June 27, 2012 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  20. Leeroy

    Once again, people with selective hearing. Romney continues to mention his plan was for his state and not for the Nation. No flip flopping there. BTW, how did Obama get Obama care into law? Uh huh.

    June 27, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  21. mojoquasi

    Isn't it obvious by now that Romney tells whatever lie he thinks is necessary to get him into the White House? Just think, if he does get there, we will never know, from one day to the next, whether he's lying to us or not. Nice, huh.

    June 27, 2012 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  22. DanTheMan122

    Difference between having the mandate on the state and federal leve

    June 27, 2012 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  23. Willard-The king for "of-shoring"

    Wait until November, flipy, then you will see your fate!

    June 27, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  24. John

    State solution for a state problem... what a joke. If we want to keep calling ourselves the united states of america perhaps we should start having the same laws applied across all states. This nonsense of people abiding by different sets of standards and rules depending on geographic location is silly

    June 27, 2012 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  25. griffbos

    funny how Mitt likes to be so selective on his record and how his memory seems to be failing, is it early stages of Alzheimer's disease he is starting to show..........which him carefully when he speaks.... when was the last time he got a physical? serious here he has me worried about his health............

    June 27, 2012 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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