Kurtz gets mandates

KURTZ GETS MANDATES…. The Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz notices the right’s shift on individual mandates, and summarizes the situation nicely.

I’m not taking sides, but let’s be clear. There is no health insurance reform without a mandate. Everybody wants to stop the insurance companies from barring people for preexisting conditions. Without a mandate, healthy people would get a free ride with no insurance and sign up the moment they get sick. Massachusetts has a mandate, passed under a Republican governor, Mitt Romney. So when exactly did this become a lousy idea?

I am taking sides, and if we’re being honest about what’s transpired, it became a lousy idea right around the time Republican lawmakers decided to defeat health care reform at all costs.

While the GOP is trashing the idea of individual mandates now — Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) called the idea a “stunning assault on liberty” — some of these same Republicans have already endorsed the idea. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said he recognizes the need for the mandate. Mitt Romney and Bill Frist have said the same thing. Six current Republican Senators – Lamar Alexander (Tenn.), Bob Bennett (Utah), Mike Crapo (Idaho), Lindsey Graham (S.C.), and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) — are all on record co-sponsoring a reform measure that includes an individual mandate.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said, this year, that there isn’t “anything wrong” with mandates even if some may view them “as an infringement upon individual freedom.”

This is the exact same Chuck Grassley who said this week that consumers forced to buy insurance will be losing their — you guessed it — “freedom.”

And here’s the real kicker: if Democrats were to announce immediately that they were dropping the idea of an individual mandate, Republicans would either a) say they hate the bill anyway; or b) decide they actually love the individual mandate and can’t believe Democrats abandoned the idea.

I guess this doesn’t get repeated often enough, so let’s briefly re-state the obvious: Republicans aren’t negotiating in good faith. They don’t support reform, and their efforts are motivated entirely by a desire to kill this initiative and deny Democrats a victory.

There’s nothing especially outrageous about that — the opposition party is supposed to oppose the majority’s agenda — but recognizing this reality helps highlight the futility of “bipartisan” negotiations and the media expectations that President Obama is “failing” if he can’t convince the GOP to support reform.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.