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“Romney Wants Credit For Obamacare”: Mitt, ‘Without Romneycare, I Don’t Think We Would Have Obamacare’

Given the Affordable Care Act’s striking successes, it’s not surprising that its champions would look for some credit for bringing health security to millions of families. President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and plenty of other Democrats have reason to be proud of one of this generation’s greatest policy breakthroughs.

It is a little jarring, though, seeing a Republican look for credit, too. MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin reported this afternoon:

In a surprising move, Mitt Romney seemingly took credit on Friday for inspiring the Affordable Care Act – after famously running as the 2012 Republican nominee on a platform of repealing the law.

Romney championed and signed a comprehensive health care law in Massachusetts when he was governor. Known as “Romneycare,” it had strong similarities with Obamacare, including a mandate to purchase insurance, but he had long resisted comparisons between the two. In a Boston Globe obituary of Staples founder and longtime Romney backer Thomas Stemberg, however, the former Republican nominee finally embraced the connection.

“Without Tom pushing it, I don’t think we would have had Romneycare,” Romney told the Boston Globe. “Without Romneycare, I don’t think we would have Obamacare. So, without Tom a lot of people wouldn’t have health insurance.”

And as a factual matter, there’s certainly some truth to that. Romney approved a state-based law that served as an effective blueprint for President Obama’s federal model. The two-time failed Republican presidential candidate has a point when he says “Romneycare” helped pave the way for “Obamacare.”

But that doesn’t make his new boast any less jarring. Romney wants credit for one of the president’s signature accomplishments – which Romney was committed to tearing down just a few years ago?

Those who followed the last two presidential elections closely may recall that Romney’s position on health care got a little convoluted at times. The former one-term governor initially said he believed his state-based plan could serve as a model for the nation. Then he said the opposite.

By 2012, Romney was promising voters that he would – on his first day in the White House – issue an executive order to undo the federal health care law without congressional input, regardless of the consequences.

Or to use Romney’s phrase, he vowed to scrap health insurance for “a lot of people.”

Three years later, however, Romney is apparently shifting gears once again, taking partial credit for the system he embraced, then rejected, then vowed to destroy, and is now re-embracing again.

And to think this guy struggled as a candidate for national office.

Update: MSNBC’s report added, “After an uproar on social media, Romney clarified in a Facebook post that he still opposed Obamacare, but did not backtrack on his apparent praise of the law’s expansion of insurance coverage and its ties to his own legislation.”

Romney wrote that “getting people health insurance is a good thing,” which he followed with some dubious criticisms of the ACA. To my mind, his online clarification changes very little about the substance of the story.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 23, 2015

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Mitt Romney, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“John Roberts To America; I’m In Charge Here”: A Blunt Message To Politicians To Stop Abusing The Judiciary

When, just over two years ago, right-wing superlawyer Michael Carvin filed his first lawsuit seeking to deny Affordable Care Act tax credits to millions of individuals in states with federally operated exchanges, die-hard ACA opponents saw one reason why the Supreme Court might use an isolated four-word phrase to sabotage the ACA—that all five conservative justices would vote their political gut. As decision day approached, many ACA supporters (including me) suspected that the challengers’ political appeal might only be overcome if one or two of the conservative justices—Anthony Kennedy and/or Chief Justice John Roberts—would embrace states rights–based constitutional arguments to save the law.

Last Thursday, when the Court issued its decision in the case, King v. Burwell, all these hopes and fears about the political and ideological vectors at play, specifically, with Roberts, turned out to be dead wrong. The chief justice had bigger fish to fry—personal, institutional, and policy priorities—that led him to uphold the Obama administration’s decision to make tax credits available nationwide:

  • Asserting his personal leadership of the Court, by mobilizing a 6-3 bipartisan majority, and taking the heat for writing a no-holds-barred, decisive opinion in the most politically divisive case on this year’s docket;
  • Continuing an ever more evident drive to advance the Court’s power vis-à-vis the two elected branches, as the final decider and major direction-setter on the nation’s most fought-over policy issues;
  • Sending a blunt message to conservative activists, lawyers, and politicians to stop abusing the judiciary as a handy back-door gimmick to reverse political defeats they have been unable to reverse in political arenas—in particular, to stop bringing cases designed to “undo” the ACA;
  • Sending a subtle, gratuitous, but nevertheless quite discernible piece of policy advice to Republican politicians and policy-makers, in the form of a reminder of the ACA’s Republican ancestry in Massachusetts’ 2006 Romneycare reform law, referencing that model’s conservative credentials as a way to “expand coverage” while relying on private health insurance markets.

As the litigation made its way toward the high court, ACA opponents had been upfront about their bet that conservatives on the bench shared, and would act on their animus to the president’s signature legislative accomplishment. In September 2014, after the full D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals had voted to vacate and rehear a 2-1 decision in his favor, Carvin candidly opined that raw partisan politics would drive the Supreme Court to preempt the appellate court’s consideration of the case: “I don’t know that four justices, who are needed to [grant review of the case] here . . . are going to give much of a damn about what a bunch of Obama appointees on the D.C. Circuit think.” Asked if he believed he would lose the votes of any of the five conservative justices, he smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t think so.” Carvin’s cynical take was hardly unique; some of his allies openly forecast that Roberts would feel a need to appease conservatives who excoriated him for his 2012 vote to save the ACA.

Last Thursday, Roberts dashed conservative hopes and liberal fears of a partisan political decision. To the contrary, as conservative blogger Josh Blackman ruefully explained on a Federalist Society post-mortem conference call, the decision effectively seemed to elevate the ACA into a kind of “untouchable super-statute that is beyond reach.” Blackman characterized Roberts’s message as, “This is over . . . We’re through”—meaning, we’re through hearing cases ginned up by our clever lawyer friends to precipitate judicial de facto repeal of the law. Roberts’s brush-off of these core allies was foreshadowed by remarks he made at the University of Nebraska a few days before Carvin bared his cynical partisan take on the conservative justices. Then the chief justice said he was “worried about people having [the] perception” that the Court is no less a political body than Congress or the presidency. He attributed this trend to polarization in the elected branches, saying that he did not “want that to spill over and affect us.” Though widely disregarded at the time as standard civics class pap, it now appears clear that Roberts was serious and motivated by clear-eyed concern about the Court’s stature. As he observed in his 2005 confirmation hearings, “It is a very serious threat to the independence and integrity of the courts to politicize them.” King v. Burwell posed just such an institutional threat, and it was his job as chief justice to dispel it.

But to Roberts, protecting the Court’s reputation does not mean staying above the fray, much less retreating to the sidelines. On the contrary, the decision showed how focused he is on enhancing the Court’s power, well understanding that its non-political image is, ironically, essential to its clout. His opinion reasoned that, read in the context of the overall statute and Congress’ “plan,” the four-word phrase “established by the state” on which the challengers relied was “ambiguous.” When statutes are ambiguous, long-standing black-letter law requires courts to defer to an agency’s reasonable interpretation, rather than impose an interpretation that the court considers correct. But Roberts did not take that route. Instead, he said, the Court must decide for itself what the law means, on the ground—never before asserted so categorically—that the availability of ACA tax credits is “a question of deep economic and political significance that is central to this statutory scheme.” Of course, he then held that the administration’s interpretation was the right call. Administrative law experts were quick to note that, in the words of Ohio State law professor Chris Walker, “King v. Burwell—while a critical win for the Obama Administration—is a judicial power grab over the Executive in the modern administrative state.”

Roberts’s yen to project the Court as a player on the policy question of “deep economic and political significance” posed by the case was also manifest in another theme of his opinion, understated but audacious. Not only did he note the ACA’s roots in Romneycare, but he underscored that law’s record of effectiveness in reducing the “uninsured rate in Massachusetts to 2.6%, by far the lowest in the Nation,” and then went on to observe that the ACA “adopts a version of the three key reforms that made the Massachusetts system successful” (emphasis added), including the affordablity tax credits at issue in King, as well as the “individual mandate” that Roberts upheld as a pay-or-play tax incentive in 2012 in NFIB v. Sebelius. This and other notably favorable descriptions of the ACA in Thursday’s opinion seem aimed at Republican policy-makers and politicians. His message recalls his 2012 approval of the law’s individual mandate as an optional tax incentive—preferable, he wrote, because the “taxing power does not give Congress the same degree of control over individual behavior” as a Commerce Clause–based absolute mandate.

As I wrote after the NFIB decision, Roberts took this policy argument from a 2011 D.C. Circuit opinion by fellow George W. Bush appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh; that opinion favorably portrayed the ACA as potentially “the leading edge of a shift” to “privatize the social safety net and government assistance programs.” In these opinions, Kavanaugh and Roberts seem to be pitching a line favored in conservative policy circles prior to the recent rise of tea party-style anti-government absolutism—keep and expand the national safety net, but privatize and regulate it through incentives rather than commands. With his decisions in NFIB v. Sebelius and King v. Burwell, however, John Roberts has gone further than merely touting that big-government conservative model for safety net governance, casting the ACA as a product of that model. He has used his power to entrench it—against demands from the left for a command-and-control version of the ACA individual mandate, and against conservatives’ strategy of killing the ACA in court. This, Roberts concluded, is “the type of calamitous result that Congress plainly meant to avoid”—and which, the chief justice made crystal clear, he will be loath to permit, in this case and any other challenge the law’s opponents might cook up.

 

By: Simon Lazarus, Senior Counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center; The New Republic, June 27, 2015

June 29, 2015 Posted by | John Roberts, King v Burwell, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Deadly Consequences”: Public Health Experts Have Estimated How Many Americans Will Die If The Supreme Court Repeals Obamacare

When conservative American Enterprise Institute scholar Michael Strain published an article last week titled, “End Obamacare, and people could die. That’s okay.” he made two critical errors: He embedded a genuinely extreme view into a banal one, and then demanded absolution for both without defending the former.

Strain’s larger point is so uncontroversial, it barely needs reprising: Obamacare was not the final word in U.S. health policy, and if Republicans want to replace the Affordable Care Act with a different, less redistributive set of reforms, they should be able to try, without necessarily catching hell for preferring a system that tolerates marginally more avoidable deaths than Obamacare does (especially if they ply fiscal savings into different programs that alleviate poverty, or improve general welfare).

This is an unobjectionable point. Had Strain argued that the Republican presidential nominee should make an Obamacare alternative the centerpiece of his 2016 platform, nobody would have called it immoral. But the premise of his article is that conservatives (including himself, presumably) will be pleased if the Supreme Court intervenes to gut Obamacare, because it would provide Republicans the missing leverage they’ll need to impose a replacement through the political branches.

First comes god from the machine, and only then comes an Obamacare replacement.

If such a dramatic predicate carried no consequences, Strain’s cost-benefit argument would stand on its own. But when you account for the damage the Supreme Court would incur in order to provide Republicans their missing leverage, it collapses completely.

In a brief to the Supreme Court, dozens of public health scholars, along with the American Public Health Association, detail the harm the Court would create by ruling for the challengers in King vs. Burwell. Most of their analysis is rooted in the basic point that stripping insurance away from eight million people would dramatically impede their access to the health system. But they also flesh out the corollary argument that an adverse ruling would have deadly consequences, and ballpark the number of avoidable deaths such a ruling would cause.

“Researchers found that, in the first four years of the [health care reform] law in Massachusetts, for every 830 adults gaining insurance coverage there was one fewer death per year,” the brief reads. “Using the national estimate that 8.2 million people can be expected to lose health insurance in the absence of subsidies on the federal marketplace, this ratio equates to over 9,800 additional Americans dying each year. Although the specific policy context and population impacts of any policy cannot be directly extrapolated from one setting to another, the general magnitude and power of these findings from the Massachusetts study demonstrate that even when approached cautiously, these earlier findings carry enormous public health implications for withdrawing subsidies and coverage from millions of Americans.”

The Massachusetts story wouldn’t unfold precisely in reverse everywhere the subsidies disappeared, but the experience there suggests the Supreme Court ruling would have measurable mortality implications. These costs (read: deaths) couldn’t be paired against the benefits of increased spending on anti-poverty programs. These are the costs conservatives are eager to inflict on others simply to gain the leverage they need to advance an alternative that the status quo forecloses.

Responding to critics in a followup article, Strain brushes this all aside by stipulating that Republicans would never allow all this suffering. “I think it’s very likely that the congressional GOP would enact some sort of replacement if the Supreme Court strikes down Obamacare,” he writes. “They would very likely take measures to address the needs of those who lost their subsidies as a result of the Court’s action.”

To back up his suspicions, he cites a suspiciously limited set of news reports, quoting Republicans who claim to be working on such a planor, at least “talking about how to build consensus on a replacement.”

He does not quote from this Wall Street Journal article titled, “Republicans to Block Legislative Fix to Health-Care Law,” or this article by TPM’s Sahil Kapur titled, “Republicans Are At A Loss On What To Do If SCOTUS Nixes Obamacare Subsidies.”

For those who haven’t been keeping score all along, Republicans have spent the past several years cyclically promising and then failing to deliver an Obamacare alternative. They didn’t have an alternative prepared in 2012 when conservatives asked the Court to declare Obamacare unconstitutional. They didn’t have an alternative prepared later in the year, when Mitt Romney was their presidential candidate. They didn’t have an alternative prepared when they shut down the government as part of an ill-fated effort to defund Obamacare. They didn’t run on an Obamacare alternative in 2014. And they don’t have an Obamacare alternative prepared this week, though they’re scheduled to pass another repeal bill on Tuesday.

The story’s a little different today in that the subsidies really could disappear by fiat, harming millions of people, under GOP control of Congress. Republicans genuinely haven’t encountered a motivating force this strong in the five years since Obamacare became law. If in defiance of such a remarkable pattern, Republicans manage between now and June to come up with a workable plan or a stopgapone that President Obama will signthey will have filled the hole in Strain’s argument. Five months might seem like a long time in politics, but remember: It took Democrats more than twice that to pass Obamacare, and almost 10 times as long thereafter to implement it.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 2, 2015

February 5, 2015 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They’re All Cronies”: Conservatives In Iowa Resist Bush, Romney

Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney face big trouble in Iowa — influential conservatives have had enough of them.

Disdain for the party’s center-right powerhouses, who are both considering seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nominations, could have implications well beyond the nation’s first caucus state.

Iowa conservatives mirror the views of like-minded activists nationwide, and having the party’s vocal right wing blasting away could stagger either candidate throughout 2016. And it’s uncertain that conservatives would actively work in a general election for Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, or Bush, the former Florida governor.

“This could be a big problem,” said Craig Robinson, editor-in-chief of theIowaRepublican.com, a partisan web site.

With its town-hall-like precinct caucuses the first test of the nomination next winter, Iowa usually winnows the field of a party’s nomination contest and previews campaign styles and weaknesses. Just ask the Romneys and Bushes. The families have had a candidate in five competitive caucuses since 1980, and in all but one instance, the outcome foreshadowed the future.

George H. W. Bush was a barely-known former CIA director in 1980 when he stunned the political world by topping Ronald Reagan. Though Reagan would win the nomination, Bush showed enough strength to become Reagan’s running mate.

Bush faltered in Iowa in 1988 when he ran for the nomination a second time, this time as the sitting vice president, finishing third behind Kansas neighbor Bob Dole and evangelist Pat Robertson. The caucus prodded Bush to run a tougher campaign, and he went on to win the nomination and the White House.

In 2000, his son cemented his standing as the candidate to beat with a big victory over magazine editor Steve Forbes.

Romney finished second in 2008 and 2012, both times losing to Christian right favorites. It was a signal that that bloc was leery of Romney’s record.

Today, memories of Romney’s previous efforts dog him. “He’s a proven loser,” said John Eggen, a Des Moines air conditioning and heating contractor.

Another campaign, he said, would mean more debate over the 2006 Massachusetts health care law that Romney approved when governor. It’s considered the model for the 2010 federal health care law that Republicans hate.

Bush is also yesterday’s candidate, said Sabrina Graves, a stay-at-home mother from Blue Grass. Bush’s support for Common Core educational standards, which many conservatives view as big government reaching too far into local education, also gets slammed.

“I don’t know what is worse, nominating someone merely because he’s been nominated twice before or nominating a liberal supporter of Common Core because he has a familiar name,” said former New Hampshire House Speaker Bill O’Brien, who spoke at a daylong conservative forum in Iowa Saturday featuring a long list of potential presidential candidates.

Romney and Bush did not attend. Bush, who last week spoke at length with the Iowa Republican chairman and hinted at a White House bid, cited a scheduling conflict. A spokesman for Romney did not respond to a request for comment.

Some of Saturday’s loudest cheers came when businessman Donald Trump fired away. “It can’t be Mitt because Mitt ran and failed,” Trump said, adding “the last thing we need is another Bush.”

The audience was largely hardcore conservatives, the crowd that boosted former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, also a Baptist preacher, in 2008 and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, a hero of the Christian right, four years later. Both won the Iowa caucus.

They watched Romney market himself as a fierce conservative in 2012, but never quite bought it. Saturday, they saw New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another moderate favorite, argue that he’s a true conservative.

“If the values I’m fighting for every day in New Jersey and all across this country are not consistent with your values, then why would I keep coming back? I wouldn’t,” he said. Reaction was spotty.

The conservatives say they’ve had enough of nominees with appeal to independent and more moderate voters.

“We are tired of being told who our candidates should be,” said Donna Robinson, a Marengo saleswoman. “They say they’re conservative, then they run to the middle.”

The right wants new faces and new ideas. They were particularly impressed Saturday with Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, 47, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, 44.

“He has a proven record and he’s young,” Eggen said of Walker.

They also like people without lengthy political resumes. That’s why retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former business executive Carly Fiorina got warm receptions.

“People who have been in and around government and politics for their entire lives may no longer be able to see the truth: our government must be fundamentally reformed,” Fiorina said.

The conservatives loved it. Romney and Bush? “They’re all cronies,” Graves said. “I want someone this time who’s not a politician.”

 

By: David Lightman, The National Memo, January 26, 2015

January 29, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Let’s Go Inside His Head”: The True Confessions Of Mitt Romney

Say you’re Mitt Romney, and you still can’t believe you lost the 2012 election. You’ve been aiming barbs at President Obama and sending heartwarming Christmas cards featuring your large family. In 2014, you star in a flattering documentary and post charming photos of your hike through the Mountain West with five of your 22 grandchildren. When asked whether you will make a third try for the White House, you and your wife say absolutely not, many times in many ways.

And then suddenly you’re giving off definitive “let’s do this thing” vibes: telling donors you will almost certainly run, calling former allies and aides, adding yourself to the program at the Republican National Committee meeting in San Diego and inviting conservative radio host Laura Ingraham to an “off the record” lunch at a ski resort in Utah, after which she tells The Washington Post you were “fully engaged and up to speed,” and seemed no longer content to be “just a passive player in American politics.”

So what catapulted you off the sidelines? Jeb Bush’s forceful entry into the emerging field was the spark. But you’ve been reconsidering for a while, looking at the other establishment favorites and wondering why the heck not. It’s not like you’re too old. The baby boom generation is still clogging up the runway. At 67, you’re about the same age as Hillary Clinton and not all that much older than Jeb, who will be 62 next month. As for old news, you’re practically a fresh face compared with Clinton, who has been in the news nonstop for more than two decades. And seriously, how damaging is a third grab for the ring when your competition is the third guy in his family to run?

What else is Romney thinking? Let’s go inside his head.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s tendency to erupt at people was fun for a while and raised lots of money, he muses. But I can raise money, too. And while I’m kind of awkward sometimes, I’m pretty sure voters won’t want a president who gets into public screaming matches. Not that I hold a grudge against Christie, even though his 2012 convention keynote was much more about him than me. But what makes him think people are going to disregard eight downgrades in his state’s credit rating, a poor job-creation performance or investigations into Bridgegate, the five-day traffic nightmare that punished a Democratic mayor? I certainly won’t.

It’s impressive, yes, that Gov. Scott Walker took on unions and has won three Wisconsin elections in six years. But would voters really pick this untested young candidate over the man who saved the 2002 Olympics and countless floundering businesses? (That would be me). And does Walker have the presence and skills to dominate a national race? I’ve already proven I can crush a sitting president in a debate.

And don’t get me started on Jeb and his family: his father’s reversal on his no-new-taxes pledge; his brother’s wars, deficits and intrusive federal education law; and his own support for comprehensive immigration reforms and Common Core education standards. All I did was sign “Romneycare” when I was governor of Massachusetts. I’ve already denied that it was the model for Obamacare. I’ve already said no other state should be required to do what I did. I’ve already said the federal law should be repealed. Problem solved.

I want to pause here to thank my good friend, the conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, for his advice on how to deal with that time I dismissed 47 percent of the country as moochers who are dependent on government, believe they are victims, and will never take responsibility for their lives. Hewitt is right, everyone makes mistakes. Look at Hillary’s “we were broke when we left the White House” gaffe; Rick Perry’s “oops” moment when he forgot the third federal agency he wanted to eliminate; and Jeb’s description of illegal immigration as an “act of love” by people trying to give their families better lives. I never pretend to be poor, and I don’t start lists I can’t finish. Maybe I went a bit too far with the “self-deportation” business on immigration. You won’t hear me use that phrase again.

Above all, I won’t forget that a lot of those 47-percenters are veterans, seniors, low-income workers, the disabled and people searching desperately for jobs. And I won’t forget that a lot of them vote Republican — even for me! I won the seniors and the veterans, and I nearly won the union vote. I’m not only going to remember these folks, I’m going to focus my next campaign on opportunity and upward mobility. Wait, what do you mean, Jeb already named his political action committee Right to Rise, and stole the phrase — with permission — from my own 2012 running mate?

Back to the drawing board for the third round. I know the right message is out there somewhere.

 

By: Jill Lawrence, Creative Writers Syndicate; The National Memo, January 15, 2015

January 19, 2015 Posted by | Election 2016, GOP Presidential Candidates, Mitt Romney | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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