Romney Backed Health Care Mandate in 1994

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
May 11 2011 12:18 PM

Romney Backed Health Care Mandate in 1994

The day before his big health care speech, Blue Mass Group explodes a depth charge right under Mitt Romney. They point to "Stormin' Mormon," the pre-1994 election profile of Romney by John Judis. That year, running uphill against Ted Kennedy, Romney said he'd support the health care compromise introduced by Sen. John Chafee. That compromise included a mandate to buy health insurance, something Democrats never tired of pointing out in 2009 and 2010 when the Affordable Care Act's compromise was characterized as tyranny or socialism.

I grabbed the original article. The key quote appears in this context.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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The question about Romney is where he would stand in Congress's internecine battles. Would he side with Republicans such as John Chafee who have tried to develop constructive alternatives to Democratic legislation or with Republicans such as Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich who have been willing to paralyze Congress for the sake of embarrassing the Clinton administration? Romney has indicated that he would side with the moderate wing. He endorsed the crime bill and refused to back Gingrich's jejune "Contract with America." He told me he would have backed Chafee's health care bill. "I'm willing to vote for things that I am not wild with," he said.

The 1994 campaign previously gave us those quotes from Romney on abortion, the Reagan legacy, and other conservative sticking points. This is the first I've seen of the long-forgotten Chafee bill stance; really, that legislation ceased to matter the minute the votes were counted in 1994. It just happened to include the sort of mandate that Republicans and a few judges now call unconstitutional.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent points to examples of Romney defending the mandate in 2007 and 2008. In neither case does he say, as he did in 1994, that Congress should pass a bill that forces Americans to buy health care coverage. But in the first case he clearly implies that the Massachusetts model works, and that eventually the rest of the country will want to copy it.

UPDATE II: Team Romney responds with a statement from Andrea Saul:

Governor Romney has made it very clear over the last many years, including during the 2008 presidential cycle, that he opposes a federally imposed individual mandate.

For what it's worth, I've seen the text of the original interview, and Romney is not really ambiguous about his support for the Chafee plan.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.