Surging presidential hopeful Rick Santorum took a shot at frontrunner Mitt Romney during a stop in Coralville, Iowa this morning, arguing that a president should not repeal the Affordable Care Act by issuing waivers to the states, as the former Massachusetts governor has suggested. Instead, Santorum promised to use the reconciliation process to eliminate the law if Republicans fail to gain a 60-seat majority in the Senate:
SANTORUM: It won’t be a waiver. I know some — Governor Romney has said, “oh we can just waive it.” Well, that’s again, experience does help and the experience of waivers is that some states will waive it and some states won’t…I suspect California won’t, and New York won’t and Connecticut won’t, and a lot of the other deep blue states won’t wave Obamacare. That means all of the taxes will still be in place for you and I to pay and all the money will go to California… The difference between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, is that I come at this cleanly. I’ve been a private sector health care guy from day one…I’ve never dabbled on the dark side when it comes to government health care.
To be fair, Romney has also pledged to use reconciliation to repeal reform, despite the fact that the budget reconciliation bill would only apply to the budget-related elements and leave many provisions intact. The method would also create “a chaotic environment driven by enormous uncertainty over just which parts of the new health care law would be implemented–for consumers, health care providers, and insurers.”
Still, Romney would have an even harder time undoing Obamacare with waivers. For a state to be granted a waiver, “it must show that it will provide coverage that is at least as comprehensive and affordable as under the federal law,” and would not be able to apply for the exemption before 2017. A recent report from the Congressional Research Service confirms that issuing broader waivers through executive authority would “likely conflict with an explicit congressional mandate and be viewed ‘incompatible with the express … will of Congress.’”