Mitt Romney told Sean Hannity last night that he’s a “businessman conservative” in the John Adams and Ronald Reagan traditions and described his Massachusetts health care plan as a “conservative” proposal that he “learned about” from the Heritage Foundation and Newt Gingrich in 1993:
ROMNEY: And I know that health care is one of those issues. The Massachusetts healthcare plan. But don’t forget, this healthcare plan was something we learned about from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank. Even Newt Gingrich supported the idea of an individual mandate, insisting on personal responsibility. Now, what we did isn’t perfect. Some parts of it worked, some didn’t, some things I change. But it’s not like it was a liberal idea. It was a conservative concept. I’m proud of the fact we did something that worked with our state consistent with the Tenth amendment. I’m also proud of the fact that I’m out there saying I’ll get rid of Obamacare. I know why it’s bad. I know how it’s different than what we did and why it needs to be taken off the books of the US — of the entire nation.”
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This is an important point because if Gingrich — who in 1993 said, “I am for people, individuals–exactly like automobile insurance–individuals having health insurance and being required to have health insurance” — and Heritage served as a model for Romneycare, then his distinction between state and federal mandates is moot. Both advocated for a national rather than a state requirement to purchase health insurance coverage, as did the numerous Republican senators who saw the national mandate as a viable alternative to so-called Hillarycare in 1993. In fact, Romney himself praised the idea as recently as June of 2009, when he endorsed the Wyden-Bennett health care plan (which also included a national requirement to purchase coverage). “You look at Wyden-Bennett,” he said on NBC. “That’s a health care plan that a number of Republicans think is a very good health care plan — one that we support. Take a look at that one.”
So, Romney is confirming that he was motivated by national proponents of the individual mandate to design and sign legislation that incorporated the requirement in Massachusetts. He advocated for “personal responsibility” on the national level — repeatedly — before responding to the growing Republican frustration with Obamacare by adopting the tenther argument. The alternative explanation — one you would have to swallow if you’re to believe that Romney has always been a states’ rights man — is that Romney was inspired by an unconstitutional federal mandate that he legitimized by adopting it on the state level and then accidentally advocated for the very same kind of national reform. That’s an “oops” that even Perry couldn’t rival.