During a speech at the Center for American Progress Action Fund this morning, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) predicted that the current make-up of the Supreme Court makes it more likely than not that the individual health insurance mandate will be found unconstitutional and said that such a ruling could build support for bringing back the public health insurance option:
WEINER: If they strike down the mandate, big deal. Big deal! … We pretty much see the direction the Supreme Court is going, although I think that it would be folly to strike it down, I believe this is clearly under the province of the commerce clause, it’s a relatively small number of people. And by the way, the solution if the mandate is struck down is not that the bill falls like a house of cards…the solution is going to be offering something that everyone agrees is constitutional and that’s the public option in the exchange.
As Austin Frakt put it, the mandate may be the price for maintaining a “private” solution to the health care crisis and the health insurers — the biggest opponents of the public — know it. As Mike Tuffin, executive VP of America’s Health Insurance Plans (the insurance lobby) pointed out in July of 2010, “Health care reform is not over. This is the only the end of the beginning,” Mr. Tuffin said. “Whether we like it or not, the bill was passed. Now we must be reliable and effective implementation partners. We need to stay engaged. The single-payer and public-option supporters have not given up,” he warned.
Also, if one were to review the arc of GOP criticisms against the law, the opposition to the individual mandate — at least from Congressional Republicans — did not develop until after the public option had been effectively taken off the table. Recall that while Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and former Senators Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) all previously supported the requirement, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — who played a key role in the bipartisan negotiations within the so-called gang of six — favored the requirement as late as August 2009. Before that time, the crux of the opposition focused on the public option. As it stood on its last leg in the fall of 2009, Republicans developed a new allergy to requiring people to take responsibility for their eventual health care costs. So, the GOP may have created this conundrum and now they’re making the most of it.