Throughout the health care debate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has had to do a delicate political dance. The legislation that Congress ultimately passed and that President Obama signed into law closely mirrors the health care reform measure Massachusetts passed when Mitt Romney was governor in 2006. Thus, Romney has had to embrace his plan while at the same time, attacking Obama’s in an effort to appease the GOP and the conservative base, who adamantly oppose it.
However, the similarities between the bills Romney and Obama signed into law coupled with the current staunch GOP opposition are proving to be difficult gaps to bridge for the former governor.
Particularly troubling for Romney is the mandate to buy insurance in both reform measures. Republicans believe the individual mandate in the bill Obama signed is unconstitutional and stands as the raison d’etre for their efforts to repeal the bill. But Romney said in 2008, “I like mandates. The mandates work.” Now, it’s unclear where Romney stands on the federal mandate, and he won’t say whether it is constitutional, even though it is the core principle of the health care reform bill he signed.
At the same time, Romney tries to embrace the bill he passed. “I think our plan is working well. And perhaps the best thing I can say about it, it’s saving lives. It is the ultimate pro-life effort,” Romney said this month, even though the Massachusetts plan covers abortions. During a book tour stop this week, Romney struggled to explain any substantive differences between the two plans:
“I like what we have in Massachusetts, despite some flaws,” Romney said. “But what I see in Obamacare is a very different piece of legislation — and one that followed a very different track. In our case, our bill was carried out in a bipartisan basis.”
Romney is exactly right. The only real difference between Obama’s bill and his is that Massachusetts Democrats worked with their Republican governor Romney to pass their bill. Congressional Republicans, however, refused to cooperate with the President.
Tufts University professor Jeffrey Berry noted that the mandates and penalties in both plans are “anathema to mainstream Republicanism” adding that “both involve a significant expansion of government. So, on all those counts, Mitt Romney is vulnerable.” Indeed, as the AP noted, “Mitt Romney has a problem with Obamacare. It looks a lot like Romneycare.”