Pawlenty’s Flirtation With Universal Health Care: Supported SCHIP Expansion In 2007

The Washington Examiner’s Phil Klein reports that Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty may have an SCHIP problem:

Back in 2007, the newly-elected Democratic majority was in a pitched battle with the Bush White House over the renewal and expansion of SCHIP. Democrats saw it as a down payment on universal health care, but President Bush eventually vetoed the legislation, which raised tobacco taxes and expanded coverage to children from families with household incomes of up to $82,600.

As chairman of the National Governor’s Association at the time, Pawlenty came out in favor of the renewal and expansion of the law. His public statements at the time show a politician who was trying to thread the needle as governor of a liberal state who had future ambitions within the GOP. Though he endorsed the renewal and expansion, he didn’t say how big of an expansion he supported and didn’t specify the funding mechanism. Nor did he explicitly come out against President Bush’s veto.

Klein speculates that Pawlenty will likely argue that he was presenting the position of the NGA and did not endorse a specific funding mechanism (i.e. the tobacco tax) or any other details about how the expansion should occur.


That may be true, but Pawlenty hasn’t exactly shied away from expanding the government’s role in the health care system. In November of 2006 — at the beginning of his second gubernatorial term — Pawlenty said his administration has been “studying very diligently the Massachusetts model about how that would apply to Minnesota,” suggested expanding the state’s Medicaid program, and pledged to “move in stages” toward “universal coverage.” “Everyone should be in a health plan of some sort…but I think as a goal we should start with covering all kids,” he said.

Conservatives are already taking shots at his health care record. On Thursday, fellow Minnesotan Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) told radio host Laura Ingraham that Pawlenty’s health record “will concern the voters.” “We need to have people who have enough foresight and common sense to know these programs aren’t going to work,”she said.