Yesterday, Mitt Romney released a statement following a House vote to repeal the medical device tax. “I am encouraged that the House has done the right thing and voted to repeal the medical device tax. With unemployment stuck over 8 percent for 40 months, we can’t afford policies that kill jobs and stifle innovation in one of America’s most dynamic industries. The ill-considered medical device tax is only one of many fatal flaws in Obamacare. As president, I will work from my first day in office to dismantle Barack Obama’s federal health-care takeover and replace it with real reform that strengthens our health care system and puts patients first.”
Although Democrats have criticized the tax as well, I don’t expect even a vote in the Senate. Democrats’ game there is do nothing, vote on nothing and blame everything on the Republicans.
Now sometime this month we will hear from the Supreme Court on Obamacare. What should Romney say when that decision comes down?
If the court rules to invalidate the entire statute, it is important to use the occasion to continue the national civics lesson. Romney would be wise to explain why the Supreme Court acted as it did, the critical importance of the constitutional limits on Congress (it is a body of limited, enumerated powers) and why “empathy” or other subjective methodologies takes us beyond the rule of law and places us at the mercy of judges acting like super-legislators. As a political matter, it’s fair game to take note that the law instructor in chief didn’t ever consider whether there was a constitutional issue, and his view is one expressly repudiated by the courts, namely that Congress can do anything it dreams up. Romney certainly can press the president to tell us whether he’d now go for a single-payer plan.
If the Supreme Court holds that all or some of the statute it is constitutional, Romney should reject the impulse to pummel the justices, question their motives or dub it a political decision. That’s the left’s game. He certainly can express disappointment. He can tell the country that his own view of the Constitution affords less power to the federal government. He can pledge that legislation passed during his tenure will adhere to a more modest view of federal power. Just because you have a lax monitor doesn’t mean you have to utilize every iota of power.
Moreover, if Obamacare remains in part or total, it is essential for Romney to repeat the substantive policy arguments for repealing the law — the medical device tax, the taxes, the contraception mandate, the excessive spending, the impact on job growth and the IPAB. It failed to meet its stated purpose, namely to give Americans access to affordable coverage, allow them to keep coverage they like and preserve the quality and doctor-patient relationship they expect of their health care. He should reiterate his pledge to repeal the law. If “winning” is preserving a law opposed by seven in 10 Americans, he should be happy to see the president “win” some more.
If the Supreme Court leaves Obamacare in place (either in whole or in part), Romney would be wise to make the case that if we want real reform that does increase access, lower costs and respect personal choice, we have to sweep away the grotesque, complicated and job-killing legislation that makes it harder, not easier, to meet those objectives.
As for Romney’s own plan, it’s not critical to have a complete bill in legislative language. But it is important, I think, to set out in general terms what he would do in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling. He’s done that on tax reform, entitlements, energy and much more, so it isn’t unreasonable to have a health-care plan (he already has addressed Medicare and Medicaid reform).
But by the same token, he does not need to embrace Obama’s fixation with doing health care first and in lieu of the more vital and immediate economic concerns. Let Obama once again be the one to rush off, this time in search of Obamacare 2.0, while ignoring the economy.
If we tackle our debt, reform the tax code, remove job-crushing regulation, continue pressing for free trade deals and cease the drumbeat of antagonism directed at business, then we’ll be far better positioned to address non-entitlement health-care reform.