Mandated hypocrisy

MANDATED HYPOCRISY…. A couple of weeks ago, Ezra Klein had a helpful summary, noting the historical trajectory of the debate over health care reform in America. The significance of the evolution in Republicans’ thinking still matters.

To briefly summarize, when Truman tried to pass what was, in effect, Medicare for all, Republicans balked and said they preferred a more market-based pay-or-play system. When Clinton endorsed the market-based pay-or-play system, Republicans balked again, saying that they preferred a mandate/subsidies kind of system. When Obama endorsed the mandate/subsidies system crafted by Republicans in the ’90s and adopted by Mitt Romney in Massachusetts, Republicans balked again, this time saying they don’t want to address the problem at all.

But it’s that mandate that continues to be the key area of interest. It was, whether conservatives like it or not, a Republican idea, eventually (grudgingly) incorporated into the Democratic proposal. And yet, it was the central point of a court filing last week filed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), arguing that the mandate is unconstitutional.

The Kentucky Republican filed the brief last week in federal court in Florida, arguing that the individual mandate portion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is unconstitutional because it gives Congress too much power to regulate citizens’ activities. Thirty-one fellow Senate GOPers joined him. The rest did not.

“Where, as in this case with respect to the PPACA’s Individual Mandate, Congress legislates without authority, it damages its institutional legitimacy and precipitates divisive federalism conflicts like the instant litigation,” argues the senators in the brief. “The long term harms that the PPACA may do to our governmental institutions and constitutional architecture are at least as important as are the specific consequences of the PPACA.”

The Huffington explores an interesting angle to this: the brief was endorsed by 32 Senate Republicans, led by McConnell. But the article explores why the other nine GOP senators decided to withhold their support — and the fact that some of them don’t want to talk about it.

What I find especially noteworthy, though, are double-dippers — those Republicans who endorsed (and in several cases, co-sponsored) legislation to make an individual health care mandate the law of the land, but nevertheless signed onto McConnell’s brief declaring an individual health care mandate unconstitutional.

It’s quite a motley crew: Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Kit Bond (R-Mo.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), John McCain (R-Ariz.), and John Thune (R-S.D.). All seven supported the individual mandate, right up until Democrats agreed with them, at which point they decided their own idea was unconstitutional. (My personal favorite is Grassley, who proclaimed on Fox News, during the fight over Obama’s plan, “I believe that there is a bipartisan consensus to have individual mandate.”)

I realize that congressional Republicans are just lashing out wildly, and aren’t concerned about niceties like intellectual consistency, but if you’re going to co-sponsor legislation on an individual mandate, it takes a fair amount of chutzpah to turn around and sign McConnell’s brief.