Mitt Romney insults Tea Party with support for individual mandate in health care

Paula Duffy's picture

Mitt Romney has lied about supporting an individual mandate in health care reform say two cable news talking heads, and he will have to face the music.

Mitt Romney and the individual mandate in the health care reform law are "kissing cousins", according to MNBC's Joe Scarborough and Lawrence O'Donnell.

When Tea Party activists and right-wing Republicans focused their distaste for the Affordable Care Act or as conservatives derisively call it, "Obamacare" on the individual mandate provision, fingers pointed to Mitt Romney for including such a provision in the state law he championed and signed when he was governor of Massachusetts.

The Romney strategy for the GOP presidential primary season has been to say that while it might have suited the citizens of his state, at that time, it isn't necessarily a good thing to require it for the other 49 and he opposes it on a federal level.

Unfortunately, another op-ed piece in the USA Today has come back to bite him. During the bitter debates on the legislation as it moved through Congress, Romney wrote:

"There’s a better way. And the lessons we learned in Massachusetts could help Washington find it. Our experience also demonstrates that getting every citizen insured doesn’t have to break the bank. First, we established incentives for those who were uninsured to buy insurance. Using tax penalties, as we did, or tax credits, as others have proposed, encourages “free riders” to take responsibility for themselves rather than pass their medical costs on to others."

In other words, the individual mandate.

Joe Scarborough, former Republican Congressman from the state of Florida called Romney a liar on his "Morning Joe" show Tuesday morning and said it should undermine the trust he might have with supporters or those he is trying to court.

“What does it say about a candidate who [is] faced with an op-ed that he wrote a few years ago, goes in front of people, and tells them something that he knows is not true, that the press knows is not true, and that the people in the audience knows is not true?”

Not to be outdone, a much more progressive-liberal on the political tone scale, Lawrence O'Donnell proclaimed Romney a liar during Monday night's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell," and wondered aloud when Tea Party and conservative opponents of the individual mandate were going to turn on the candidate.

Will it be Romney's undoing in the general election if, as expected he is his party's candidate?

Using video of one of the early GOP primaries, when the field was a much bigger one than is out on the stump this Super Tuesday, O'Donnell pointed out the lie he said that Romney keeps getting away with on the campaign trail:

"Speaker Gingrich said he was for a federal individual mandate. That is something I've always opposed. What we did in our state was for our state, was designed for the people in our state."

O'Donnell pulled out video of Romney on "Meet the Press" from 2009, in the thick of the health care reform debate saying in essence what he wrote in the USA Today op-ed.

"The right way to proceed is to reform health care. That we can do as we did in Massachusetts. We can get everyone insured." During the clip he mentions his support for a bi-partisan solution championed by then long-time GOP Congressman Bob Bennett of Utah.

Bob Bennett was swept out of office in a 2010 primary fight, losing to a Tea Party backed candidate who hammered him about his support for a health care system that required all Americans to purchase health insurance with a provision to slap a penalty on those who don't comply, just like the Obama backed plan and the Romney plan, passed in Massachusetts.

As the smoke clears in the Republican race and if Romney emerges from the skirmishes of the past few months on the primary stump, O'Donnell believes that more emphasis will be placed on exposing the dichotomy between Romney's support for a federal individual mandate and his words on the campaign trail.

Once that happens, he continued, it will be evident to the most conservative in his constituency, that Romney shouldn't be their candidate. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Gage Skidmore.

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