Yesterday, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) admitted that he supported the individual mandate before he realized it was unconstitutional and now, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has conceded that he too endorsed a policy that would have allowed the government “to tell you what you have to buy, even if you don’t want to buy it.” In 1993, Hatch, along with 20 other GOP senators — including Grassley, Bennett, and Bond — introduced a health care plan that would have required everyone to buy coverage, capped awards for medical malpractice lawsuits, established minimum benefit packages and invested in comparative effectiveness research. It was, in other words, a plan to “erode liberty.”
Last night, and then again this afternoon, Hatch was pressed on his past support for the 1993 proposal. What’s changed, CNN’s Campbell Brown and MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell both wanted to know. Like Grassley, Hatch couldn’t come up with a very good answer. In 1993, Republicans hastily proposed the unconstitutional measure to fend off HillaryCare; nobody even understood the implications of the alternative policy, Hatch explained:
HATCH: Well, it really wasn’t. 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.
Hatch was one of the first lawmakers to argue that the individual mandate was unconstitutional — railing against the provision during the Senate Finance Committee’s mark up of — and his conversion highlights the radicalization of the Republican party and the frivolous nature of the mandate challenges. The point has been made before that the health care law Obama signed on Tuesday resembles the 1993 Republican alternative and is far more conservative than anything Ted Kennedy or even Bill Clinton proposed in the past. The fact that Republicans are willing to embarrass themselves by walking away from ideas they’ve championed reveals everything you need to know about the sincerity of their present campaign.
Cross-posted on The Wonk Room.