The GOP reversal on individual mandates

THE GOP REVERSAL ON INDIVIDUAL MANDATES…. In many cases, Republican lawmakers asked Democratic leaders to make specific concessions on health care reform. When Dems like Max Baucus agreed, the GOP balked anyway.

But there are other areas in which Democrats simply embrace policy ideas endorsed, or even created by, the right. For quite a while, conservatives liked the idea of giving an Independent Medicare Advisory Council more power to determine what the program should pay for. It’s a straightforward, money-saving measure. When the Obama administration agreed, Republicans decided they didn’t like their own idea anymore.

The same thing is happening with an individual mandate, which Republicans trashed during the first day of Senate Finance Committee debate yesterday.

Advocates of a coverage mandate say it is needed to ensure that young, healthy people get insurance and contribute to the system. They say this will ease costs associated with an influx of less-healthy people who are expected to get coverage under the Baucus legislation.

Republicans, who are trying to slow Democratic efforts to pass a health overhaul by the end of the year, rushed to criticize the proposal.

Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley, the Finance Committee’s senior Republican, said the mandate is among the reasons that he couldn’t support the bill despite months of negotiations with Mr. Baucus. “Individuals should maintain their freedom to chose health-care coverage, or not,” he said.

“This bill is a stunning assault on liberty,” said Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

That’s pretty strong rhetoric under any circumstances, but it’s especially striking since the GOP used to think individual mandates were fine. Indeed, Sam Stein noted yesterday that the idea was “once considered so non-controversial that it was endorsed by several major Republican officials.”

As recently as a month ago, Chuck Grassley, the same senator bashing the idea of a mandate yesterday, announced that the way to get universal coverage is “through an individual mandate.” He told Nightly Business report, “That’s individual responsibility, and even Republicans believe in individual responsibility.” Earlier this year, Grassley told Fox News that there wasn’t “anything wrong” with mandates even if some may view them “as an infringement upon individual freedom.”

Now, apparently, he disagrees with himself. There’s a lot of that going around.

Congressional Republicans could probably save themselves a lot of trouble by simply saying, “Whatever Democrats are for, we’re against,” in response to every question.