When Republicans Supported The Individual Mandate It Was Constitutional

Ezra Klein notes that the GOP’s problem with the individual mandate isn’t so much its constitutionality as it is the fact that it “was passed by President Obama and the Democrats.” You know this is true because when Republicans are pressed about why they supported the individual mandate before they opposed it, they give an answer that sounds something like this:

HATCH ON WHY HE SUPPORTED THE MANDATE IN 1993: We were fighting Hillarycare at that time. And I don’t think anyone centered on it, I certainly didn’t. That was 17 years ago. But since then, and with the advent of this particular bill, really seeing how much they’re depending on an unconstitutional approach to it, yea, naturally I got into it, got into it on this issue. [MSNBC, 3/26/2010]

GRASSLEY ON WHY HE SUPPORTED THE MANDATE IN 2007, 1993: If it was unconstitutional today, it was unconstitutional in 1993, but I don’t think anybody gave it much thought until three or four months ago when you start looking at what constitutional lawyers say about it because constitutional lawyers wouldn’t have been looking at the mandate for health insurance until it became an issue and it just became a issue lately. And so I think that’s the legitimacy of it being considered unconstitutional. [MSNBC, 3/25/2010]

The point, of course, is that the opposition to the mandate is driven by the political need to unravel the Democrats’ crowning social achievement, not about a serious policy disagreement. As Merill Goozner asked recently, “where were these tea-baggers when a Republican Congress passed the prescription drug benefit for seniors in 2003? That insurance program (Part D charges an average premium of $35 a month, taken directly out of senior citizens Social Security checks) is “voluntary,” but you can opt out only if you agree to pay a penalty when you decide you want to get coverage. The penalty is one percentage point increase in the premium for every year the senior stays out of the program.”

“So what is the takeaway lesson from this little bit of hypocrisy?” he asks. “Republicans back mandates that charge higher prices later as the penalty, while Democrats prefer mandates that charge penalties up front. I’ll leave it to you to decide who has the greater claim on political genius.”