On Saturday night, while most sensible people were happily flipping back and forth between the Big Ten championship game, the ACC championship game, and the Oklahoma-Oklahoma State game, the Republican presidential candidates (save Jon Huntsman) appeared at a televised presidential forum in New York City. These were the exchanges on Obamacare:
Ken Cuccinelli, attorney general of Virginia: “Mr. Speaker, you speak passionately about first principles and small government — smaller government, yet you supported individual mandates for health insurance….Why should limited government conservatives like me trust that a President Gingrich will not advance these sorts of big government approaches when you are president?”
Newt Gingrich: “Well…the original individual mandate originally was developed by [the] Heritage Foundation and others as a method to block Hillarycare in 1993, and virtually all of us who were conservatives came to the conclusion that, in fact, it was more dangerous and more difficult to implement, and guaranteed that politics and politicians would define health care. And that’s why virtually every conservative has, in fact, left that kind of a model.”
Cuccinelli: “Governor [Romney], in a general election debate, President Obama will say that his health care law was based on your Massachusetts model. What would be your response to the president in that debate?”
Mitt Romney: “I — I sure look forward to that because I’ll say, ‘Mr. President, thank you for the compliment, but why didn’t you give me a call?’
“‘Why — why didn’t you pick up the phone and ask me what I’d do differently? What I’d do the same? Why didn’t you ask me what the flaws were in the Massachusetts plan?’”
Cuccinelli: “Well, let me ask — let me ask you, what would you do differently?”
Romney: “Oh, a lot of things. Actually the bill that I proposed was different than the final bill. Some measures in the final bill I vetoed. They were overwritten by the legislature. And actually I’m sure that in the years that have passed some things have been seen to have gone well. Some things needed to be adjusted and improved.
“So do I like the bill overall? Yes. Am I proud of what we did for our state? Yes.
“But what the president has done is way beyond what we envisioned. We were trying to take care of the eight percent of our population that didn’t have insurance. The president is not just worried about the people without insurance. Obamacare is about taking over 100 percent of the people’s insurance in this country.”
Cuccinelli: “Well, you would acknowledge, you would agree wouldn’t you, that even when you were taking — trying to take care of that eight percent, what you did in that bill in Massachusetts in 2006 affected the entire industry in Massachusetts, correct?”
Romney: “Well, it was intended to in a — in a very limited way, if at all. For the 92 percent of people who already had insurance, nothing changed. They continued to get the insurance from their private insurance companies, and the eight percent, by the way, also got private insurance. They didn’t get government insurance. They got private insurance. So for the 92 percent of us that were already insured, nothing changed.
“We had hoped that what we did would help bring down the cost of health care even in a modest way. That didn’t happen. There’s some who say it’s come down a little bit but — or the — the rate of growth has come down a little bit. But in terms of getting down the cost of health care, that’s the real objective that we ought to be looking at, at the federal level.”
Cuccinelli: “[Governor Perry,] you said that if elected you’d issue an executive order to block the implementation of the federal health-care law. What is your authority to unilaterally invalidate a law passed by Congress and signed [by the President]?”
Rick Perry: “Well, obviously executive order and in those agencies also there is a substantial amount of that bill that allowed for the agencies to put the rules in place. So I’m going to put people in as the head of Health and Human Services, for instance, that share my philosophy that obviously Medicaid, for instance, needs to be migrated back to the states.
“And now, you know, Lord willing we’ll get rid of that this summer with a Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality issue which certainly I think all of us have joined in that suit. And thank you all for being great attorney generals from that standpoint.”
Cuccinelli: “Well — so as a president, it sounds like you’re ready to simply use an executive order to effectively void this law, or large parts of it, that you don’t agree with.”
Perry: “Absolutely. And I think that...”
Cuccinelli: “What is your authority for that?”
Perry: “Well, the executive order obviously gives you that authority, but also as I said earlier, having men and women in those agencies that are going to share your philosophy — and I think that’s a really important message not just to Health and Human Services, but all the way through.
“In my plan for getting America back working, I talked about the energy industry and having the Department of Interior open up those federal lands and waters so that we can get into and explore for and get America more independent on the energy side. Millions of jobs can be created and have the security of domestic energy.”
Cuccinelli: We’re getting a little away from the question. I just want to be real clear to make sure I understand this. You are taking the position that you can stop the implementation of a law passed by Congress, signed by the president, with an executive order?”
Perry: “I’m saying we can — we can stop parts of it. The other parts of it obviously have to be done from the rule standpoint of those rules that are going to be implemented by the Health and Human Services, et cetera.”
Pruitt: “[Congresswoman Bachmann, you’ve] been a strong opponent of the president’s federal health-care law, as we have been, and it’s been because primarily, I trust, because of the individual mandate. But [you] also went so far as to say the states cannot pass an individual mandate. They lack the authority. What’s your constitutional basis for that?”
Michele Bachmann: “Well I think it goes back to the liberty interests that each one of us inherently has, and there can be reasonable disagreement on that issue. I think the overriding issue I want the American people to realize is that if we do absolutely nothing, Obamacare will be implemented, and it’s going to change the face of the country forever.
“It’s going to cost trillions of dollars over the years. It’s going to take away our liberty. It could [cause] the potential collapse [of] Medicare, because it takes $500 billion out of Medicare. And it’s also for the first time in the history of the country, it has [taxpayer] subsidized abortion. It really is the new social engineering playground of the Left, and it has to be stopped.
“One thing I’d like to mention is in August of this year, President Obama in a stunning level of power demonstrated how far a president can go with Obamacare, because he ordered every private insurance company in the United States to now offer free-of-charge the morning after abortion pill, contraceptives, and on and on, and so this is it.
“And what I want people to know is we have one chance to get rid of this bill, and it’s in this election cycle.”
Mike Huckabee: “But Congresswoman, I want to really understand. Virginia passed a statute saying that no one could be forced to buy health insurance in the state of Virginia. We passed a constitutional amendment saying the same thing in Oklahoma. Are you saying that that was unnecessary that we didn’t, the states didn’t have the authority to do that anyway?”
Bachmann: “No, you certainly had the authority to pass that statute. The problem is that both of you know, the federal government Obamacare bill will trump the state statutes. You did the right thing. What you did is you demonstrated that this is the opinion in Oklahoma, the people in Virginia. You don’t want to come under that federal government restriction.
“I agree with that. But the problem is, it is the law of the land right now and if we do nothing, it’s going to continue to steamroll every state that there is. I don’t want to see socialized medicine, [become] the law of the land, and fundamentally it’s the foundation for socialized medicine.”