Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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February 16, 2010

OPPOSING THE IDEAS THEY SUPPORT.... It's been surprisingly easy of late to chronicle the many instances in which congressional Republicans have announced their opposition to ideas they support. From a deficit commission to PAYGO, cap-and-trade to a financial industry bailout, civilian trials for terrorist suspects to stimulus aid for their districts, it's become routine for Republicans to embrace and reject the same proposals, almost at the same time.

On an individual mandate as part of health care reform, Karen Tumulty noted this morning that Republicans "oppose their own idea." She referenced this piece from NPR's Julie Rovner.

For Republicans, the idea of requiring every American to have health insurance is one of the most abhorrent provisions of the Democrats' health overhaul bills.

"Congress has never crossed the line between regulating what people choose to do and ordering them to do it," said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT). "The difference between regulating and requiring is liberty."

But Hatch's opposition is ironic, or some would say, politically motivated. The last time Congress debated a health overhaul, when Bill Clinton was president, Hatch and several other senators who now oppose the so-called individual mandate actually supported a bill that would have required it.

In fact, says Len Nichols of the New America Foundation, the individual mandate was originally a Republican idea. "It was invented by Mark Pauly to give to George Bush Sr. back in the day, as a competition to the employer mandate focus of the Democrats at the time."

If we could expect consistency and intellectual seriousness from GOP lawmakers, it would be almost bewildering.

Over the summer, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told Fox News, "I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandates.... There isn't anything wrong with it." A few months later, he used individual mandates as an excuse to oppose reform, and voted for a resolution characterizing mandates as unconstitutional.

Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Bennett (R-Utah), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) all declared their opposition to an individual mandate in December. All five of them are on record co-sponsoring a reform measure that included an individual mandate.

The point here is not just to highlight the bizarre inconsistencies of Republican opponents of health care reform. This is also important in realizing why bipartisanship on health care has been quite literally impossible -- Republicans are willing to reject measures they've already embraced, and ideas they themselves came up with.

All the Democratic outreach and compromise options in the world can't overcome the fundamental lack of seriousness that comes with a party that opposes and supports the same ideas at the same time.

Steve Benen 9:10 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (23)

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Ironic that "Before it, before I was against it" was a pejorative for Kerry, and now is the Republican meme. . .

Posted by: DAY on February 16, 2010 at 9:20 AM | PERMALINK

How are the Republicans not serious? They do whatever will make the other side fail so that they can get into power and enact their agenda. That's not serious to you? If there is a lack of seriousness in Washington, it's on the part of the Democrats, who just sort of play around with the government and won't use their power to accomplish as much as they possibly can.

This is politics. There is no high road. The goal is to win. The Republicans are serious about winning. Everything else is details.

Posted by: Mark on February 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

Proofread, DAY! "I was FOR it, before, etc. . ."

Posted by: DAY on February 16, 2010 at 9:21 AM | PERMALINK

It's great that the Dims are keeping the Repugnant ideas alive even as the Repugnants themselves go politically schizophrenic!

How, you know, charitable of them...

Instead of, you know, pushing for UNIVERSAL GOD DAMN HEALTH CARE...

Posted by: neill on February 16, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

This again proves that it is not about policy. This fight is about opposing everything that has to do with healthcare. It is about opposing everything that Obama wants to do and would like to do. If Obama has any dreams, the Republicans are working on a way to oppose them to (to paraphrase an old joke by Richard Pryor).

Posted by: ecthompson, md on February 16, 2010 at 9:22 AM | PERMALINK

So it's OK for Obama to 'change' his mind on mandates, but not for others? Otoh, is it OK for Obama to specifically lie to get elected?

Posted by: Michael7843853 on February 16, 2010 at 9:24 AM | PERMALINK

Must be a slow news day. Another dog bits man story. Shocking.

Posted by: Scott F. on February 16, 2010 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK

So requiring Americans to buy health insurance is abhorrent, but requiring them to buy stock on Wall Street (in order to privatize Social Security) is okay?

Posted by: Mike on February 16, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

should be "bites man" - my apologies

Posted by: Scott F. on February 16, 2010 at 9:38 AM | PERMALINK

It would be so funny if Obama has a video screen and shows a bunch of this at the health care get-together.

Posted by: Th on February 16, 2010 at 9:39 AM | PERMALINK

Rachel Maddow made the obvious point last night that if you are 'for' something and then decide to be 'against' something just because the President thinks it's a good idea, then there is no reason anyone should take you seriously and you have no credibility and what you think really doesn't matter.

As campaign ads, these things are really writing themselves - hopefully a new generation of Strategists as 'smart' as Maddow, and as willing to say this stuff out loud, will start hitting all these fast balls outta the park

Posted by: bcinaz on February 16, 2010 at 9:54 AM | PERMALINK

Now I know why I hate the "individual mandate" so much. It was a Republican idea. Seems to me this reform is riddled with bad ideas from Republicans. They have just about succeeded in making this thing so unpalatable by poisoning it with their stupid ideas. It would have been a perfect political play had it not destroyed the last vestiges of a functioning government...well okay it was a perfect political play from a Republican standpoint, since destroying all functions of government is what gives them all a chubby.

Posted by: Ronald on February 16, 2010 at 9:57 AM | PERMALINK

As big a fan as I am of Rachel Maddow, she can yell about Republican hypocrisy until she's blue in the face -- THE ELECTORATE DOESN'T CARE. The average American believes all politicians are hypocrites (and most of them are). The Republican base sees opposing everything Obama does as HEROIC because he's, y'know, the Antichrist. So the Republican strategy is risk-free for them and therefore nearly impossible to combat -- if the Dems were into combat, which they're not.

Posted by: dalloway on February 16, 2010 at 10:00 AM | PERMALINK

Reckoning now, with a whimper. Fuck, the winter of our discontent.

Posted by: lou on February 16, 2010 at 10:02 AM | PERMALINK

What I say today is what I have always said, do not concern yourselves with what I may have said in the past because it is in complete harmony with what I say now......when I snap my fingers, you will awake, and you will feel refreshed.

Posted by: Mark on February 16, 2010 at 10:44 AM | PERMALINK

If the Repubs were smart they would just declare victory on health care and then walk away. "We have achieved everything we wanted to," the press release would start.


The stimulus worked and prevented another Republican created depression. Republicans who tell you differently lie, they are using the tactics of the Soviet Communists, "One lie told enough times becomes truth."

Also, repubs don't seem to be worried about higher insurance costs. Perhaps they like paying for the luxuries of insurance company executives. I don't.

And my heart goes out to those with rotton health care plans, like my neighbor who told me her company forced a $3,500 deductable on her, for anothing other than regular office visits, becuse they raised the cost of insurance so high, she would have had to move out of her small one bedroom apartment.

Do I believe her? Why yes. I have heard too many stories like this for it not to be true. My employees encouraged everyone to go on medical savings accounts with the promise of $1000 per year support, then two years later took it away. Meanwhile, according to my employeer the insurance company tripled the HMO premium so people would be forced to move to a different plan.

Gotta love those Repubs, in effect, bagmen for the insurance companies.

Posted by: Kurt on February 16, 2010 at 10:49 AM | PERMALINK

Imagine that HCR flames out this year, and resurfaces 15 years from now. At that time, Democrats will advance a compromise measure centered on tort reform. And Republicans will say tort reform is the worst thing ever.

That said, is there inconsistency on the other side? That is, are there Democrats who criticized individual mandates in the past who favor them now?

Posted by: Grumpy on February 16, 2010 at 11:05 AM | PERMALINK

Sigh. I wish Obama would change his mind on mandates, too. Single payer for basic services (a la Medicare) would cover everyone, without mandates. For extras (nose jobs, tit implants, etc. Or even single room in hospital -- a la UK), insure yourself, if you want. Repubs couldn't moan any louder than they do now and we might get a better deal...

Posted by: exlibra on February 16, 2010 at 11:06 AM | PERMALINK

It is interesting that much of what is in the current 'socialist' derived bill is very similar to the alternatives put forth by Republicans to the Clinton health plan of 93.

I never knew Bob Dole was a Socialist.

Posted by: thorin-1 on February 16, 2010 at 11:16 AM | PERMALINK

"Congress has never crossed the line between regulating what people choose to do and ordering them to do it,"

Paying taxes?
Drug laws?

Posted by: eightnine2718281828mu5 on February 16, 2010 at 11:38 AM | PERMALINK

How many dems were against it when it was Bush's idea and are for it now? Just curious.

Posted by: wendywriter on February 16, 2010 at 3:07 PM | PERMALINK

Bush proposed healthcare reform? Gee, I can't believe I missed that. The last I heard, he thought healthcare reform meant, "Go to the Emergency Room".

Posted by: Mark on February 16, 2010 at 3:48 PM | PERMALINK

Now that the smoke is clearing from the disgusting displays of vile at last Summer's tea parties, and Americans take a look back at just what happened, they are quickly realizing that one party is very much ready to throw the country under the bus in order to keep the president from succeeding.

GOP = Party first. Country last.

Posted by: Mo on February 17, 2010 at 12:08 AM | PERMALINK



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