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Mitt Romney Weighs In on Obamacare

3:15 PM, Mar 23, 2011 • By JEFFREY H. ANDERSON
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On the one year anniversary of President Obama signing Obamacare into law, Mitt Romney writes at National Review: “If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. The executive order would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them.”

Mitt Romney Weighs In on Obamacare

Later in the same post, Romney writes, “Of course, the ultimate goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs. But since an outright repeal would take time, an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states.”  

This is probably a politically savvy move on Romney’s part, as it enables him to propose a specific (albeit modest) step toward ending Obamacare that, to the best of my knowledge, no other prospective GOP candidate has yet outlined. Yet, the “first step” he outlines wouldn’t really return power to the states, or to the people, as we’d still be living under Obamacare. Executive orders cannot contradict statutory law. Moreover, by making things a bit better in the short-term, it might actually sap the repeal movement of some of its sense of urgency. One also wonders why repeal itself shouldn’t be “the first step”—why it shouldn’t be the immediate, and not merely “the ultimate,” goal. 

Even this modest proposal also contains some political danger for Romney. When he talks about leaving things up to the states (a good idea), it invites people to reflect on what he did in his state. And if Romney were to mention this proposal in a debate (“I'd issue waivers to all 50 states...”), President Obama would no doubt reply that his administration has also been issuing a lot of Obamacare waivers—being very “flexible” (he could even cite the number of waivers issued), and giving states the opportunity to “do what works for them”—while also taking the opportunity to claim that Romney’s approach to dealing with health care at the state level has been quite similar to his own approach to dealing with it at the federal level.

There is no question that Romney is far more committed to repeal than Obama is, and there is little reason to believe that Romney’s commitment to repeal is anything but firm. The question is this: Is Romney the prospective Republican presidential candidate who is best positioned to attack Obama on Obama’s weakest issue?

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