Political Animal


May 28, 2011 9:50 AM Another Republican, another mandate supporter

By Steve Benen

Jon Huntsman supported an individual health care mandate. Mitt Romney not only supported a mandate, he passed a mandate law and stands by it. Newt Gingrich at least used to support a mandate policy, and defended it two weeks ago on national television.

And Tim Pawlenty appears ready to join the same club.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty said in a 2006 speech that mandated health insurance was a “potentially helpful” — but incomplete — solution to the problem of the uninsured.

Pawlenty described a Massachusetts-style mandate in his speech as “a worthy goal and one that we’re intrigued by and I think at least open to,” but suggested that the central health care problem was not forcing people to buy insurance but helping them afford it.

Wait, you mean Pawlenty saw radical government activism and a freedom-killing agenda as a “worthy goal” that he was “open to”? Well, yes.

At a certain level, none of this is surprising at all. As I may have mentioned once or twice, this was a Republican idea in the first place. Nixon embraced it in the 1970s, and George H.W. Bush supported the idea in the 1980s. When Dole endorsed the mandate in 1994, it was in keeping with the party’s prevailing attitudes at the time. Romney embraced the mandate as governor and it was largely ignored during the ‘08 campaign, since it was in keeping with the GOP mainstream.

In recent years, the mandate has also been embraced by the likes of John McCain, Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Bob Bennett, Tommy Thompson, Lamar Alexander, Lindsey Graham, John Thune, Scott Brown, and Judd Gregg, among many others. Indeed, several of them not only endorsed the policy, they literally co-sponsored legislation that included a mandate.

So hearing that Pawlenty was on board with a health care idea that most of his party has supported for decades isn’t exactly scandalous.

There are, however, a couple of angles to keep an eye on. The first is that Republicans now consider the idea poisonous because President Obama agrees with it, so Pawlenty will probably disavow his own remarks, the way he’s distanced himself from the rest of his record.

The second is the likely emergence of a sin hierarchy in GOP circles — Pawlenty was open to a mandate (bad), Huntsman pushed for one but failed (worse), Romney actually created one (worst).

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • DAY on May 28, 2011 10:04 AM:

    There is no "money to be made" in single payer or mandates, so it is an orphan fighting against a very rich and powerful Health Care Industry.

  • c u n d gulag on May 28, 2011 10:06 AM:

    Poor T-Paw,
    I's ok, you won't be alone - Uncle Newt needs company in Republican Siberia.

  • Tom Marney on May 28, 2011 11:03 AM:

    It amazes me that no candidate has even attempted to play for the non-loony segment of (what's left of) the Republican Party. TPaw, Romney, Huntsman all could've made a play, and to me TPaw seems to be fighting his inner voice as it tells him to do exactly that.

  • mellowjohn on May 28, 2011 11:28 AM:

    it would seem that the republicans are planning on using the song "it wasn't me" by shaggy as the theme song for their presidential campaign.

  • dcsusie on May 28, 2011 4:28 PM:

    Oops, Steve,you made a typo. Let me fix it for you:

    ".... Republicans now consider the idea poisonous because THAT D*MN N*GGER IN THE WHITE HOUSE agrees with it"

    Need to keep the focus on the fundamental issue.