Why repeal of Obamacare will not happen if Romney is president

In April 2010, shortly after the passage of Obamacare, I stated (here, here, and here) that Romney was simply out of the question for 2012, because, as the signer of Romneycare in Massachusetts, he could not possibly be, or be seen as, the president who would repeal Obamacare. In 2011, as a result of Romney’s repeated, reasonable statements pointing out the differences between Romneycare and Obamacare and his declarations of support for repeal of Obamacare, my anti-Romney thoughts softened somewhat; not that I was supporting him, but I was no longer automatically rejecting him either. But now, based on a powerfully reasoned article by Philip Klein at the Washington Examiner, my concerns about Romney have risen again to the fore. Klein makes a decisive case that repeal of Obamacare simply will not happen under a President Romney.

While the whole column should be read, here are the key sections:

During his presidential campaign, Romney has said he supports the repeal of the law and would issue an executive order to waive Obamacare for 50 states. That’s a fine talking point for a debate answer, but it doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny. As president, Romney could direct his administration not to implement some regulatory aspects of the law, but a future Democratic president could quickly reinstate them. Furthermore, he couldn’t, through executive order, eliminate most of the major spending provisions in the law. For that to happen, we’d need to see a repeal bill passed through both chambers of Congress. Given the unlikelihood that Republicans would gain a 60-vote supermajority in the Senate, this would have to be done through the reconciliation process. Though some people have argued to me that a GOP Congress would obviously pass a repeal of Obamacare and Romney would be forced to sign it, there’s no reason to believe that Congressional leaders would pursue a sure to be acrimonious reconciliation process unless the president were willing to stake political capital on it. So a President Romney couldn’t passively sit back and wait for a repeal bill to appear on his desk, he’d have to show courageous presidential leadership, pounding the table on the issue for months. And it won’t be just any months, but he’ll have to stake the crucial early months of his presidency on it after taking office in January 2013, because the major provisions start in 2014, and it will be harder to unwind by then. So this raises the question of whether I think Romney has the resolve to see something like this through, to which I’d respond: are you kidding me?…

Romney, in short, has displayed zero political courage during his career. He has held opposite positions on nearly every issue, with one obvious exception. He still hasn’t disavowed the health care law he designed, campaigned for, and signed with a smiling Ted Kennedy at his side. And it happens to be the forerunner to Obamacare. There’s no reason to believe as cautious and calculating of a figure as Mitt Romney would stake the crucial first months of his presidency getting into a bruising political battle to repeal a law, when he still clings to its underlying policy ideas.

And remember, New Deal era programs weren’t firmly enshrined in this country by Democrats, but because Republicans, once in power, stopped making the case against them and their leader, President Eisenhower, did nothing to unravel them. Thus, the damage that a President Romney could do to the cause of limited government simply by inaction on Obamacare is incalculable.

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Paul Nachman writes:

Unfortunately, that seems like a strong argument in the article you linked.

Romney is, to me, clearly a quality person—remember how much we were impressed by his withdrawing-from-the-campaign speech in 2008? [LA replies: Yes, that was a substantive speech, but then a few days later he leaped into McCain’s lap.] And I’d without question vote for him against Wonderboy (who is absolutely a low quality thing). But the Nabka [the Palestinian word for the “catastrophe” of Israel’s founding, which Paul is applying to Obamacare] might well get cemented in under Romney.

On that score, whom do we like better? My instinct: Bachmann and Cain seem most in touch with principles, and I think Cain hasn’t been out making mistakes in public …

Is there anyone on the sidelines we could even dream about? Christie is mostly a nightmare. Palin isn’t grounded enough.

So … we’re down to where we always knew it was headed: You and I! [LA replies: Yes, one of us has got to make the sacrifice and run.]

Actually, Paul Ryan would be interesting, even though NumbersUSA gives him only a “C.” But if, as some are saying, it’s already too late for Christie to get in, that must hold for Ryan, too, because of our ridiculously long and expensive campaigns.

Here’s an article by Bill Murchison that touches on this. I truly find it oppressive that as soon as one election is settled, the one four years out is under discussion. I’ve no doubt you share my disgust. There are so many things wrong with it: We make too much fuss over the presidency, we expect the feds to involve themselves in 10 to 100 times too many things, we have a largely clueless electorate (including the Tea Party folks).

Steve W. writes:

Very glad to see you returning to your previous opinion about Mitt Romney and Obamacare. But Romney would be bad on all the major issues. Based on his record and rhetoric, there is no reason to believe that any meaningful rollback of the liberal welfare-regulatory state will occur under a President Romney. He clearly lacks the personal strength and intellectual firepower to engage in such a fight with the political, media, academic, and business establishments (of which he so obviously is a part). He will not enforce border security. He will not pursue policies that will encourage illegal aliens to leave the country. [LA replies: Who will?] He will not support reducing legal immigration. [LA replies: Who will?] He will not fight the “culture war” on behalf of traditional American culture. [LA replies: Who will?] Nor will he shrink the size and intrusiveness of government. [LA replies: Who will?] He will not reform middle class entitlements (except to raise taxes and “means test” them, so as to maintain their “solvency” for another few years). He will not reduce the mountains of economic and environmental regulations that choke entrepreneurship. He will not rein in the Federal Reserve. He is completely out of step with the “Tea Party” movement.

Quite plainly, Romney is not a believer in constitutional limited government; he is a technocrat and believes that “smart” people like him should be managing our lives. He shares this attitude with NYC Mayor Bloomberg. (I also do not believe he is as brilliant as many people think. I witnessed him being crushed in a debate with Pat Toomey over the stimulus bills, on an NR cruise a few years ago.) As for foreign policy, he will not withdraw American troops from wasteful foreign wars in Muslim lands. [LA replies: Who will?] He will not fight to undo the homosexualization of the military. [LA replies: Who will?] He will not confront the threat posed by unrestricted foreign trade. [LA replies: Who will?] And on and on and on. If anything, Mitt Romney will be an even more liberal version of George W. Bush. In my opinion, he would be a disaster for the Republican Party, for conservatism, and for the country.

Also, Romney supported the stimulus bills.

Jim C. writes:

Romney has stated repeatedly in the debates that he would give waivers to all the states upon assuming the presidency.

LA replies:

Is this what he says in lieu of saying that he will repeal Obamacare? Why won’t he pledge to repealing Obamacare?

Joseph C. writes:

Excellent post on Romney. And whereas Mr. Klein rightly concludes that Romney will not stake political capital on the repeal of the healthcare monstrosity, my beef is that Romney will not stake political capital on anything. To wit, on what other issues will Mr. Romney take the path of least resistance—i.e., do nothing controversial:

  • When the next Supreme Court vacancy arises, Romney can either (i) go along to get along like Bush the elder and nominate another blank slate like David Souter or (ii) pick a humongous fight by nominating a strict constructionist with a documented record of trashing the Earl Warren legacy.

  • When civil rights initiatives that are passed at the state level—concerning either marriage, employee rights, etc.—are challenged, Romney can either (i) let them die of sheer neglect or (ii) instruct the Justice Department to defend them vigorously.

  • When scandals involving the Obama administration come to light (Solyndra, voter fraud, voter intimidation etc.), Romney can either (i) let sleeping dogs lie and get on with his administration or (ii) loudly and proudly have his administration prosecute them to the end of the earth and do his best to destroy the careers and reputations of the perpetrators.

  • When Tea Party types criticize Romney for caving in on key social and civics issues, Romney can either (i) say he chosen to beat Obama and focus on jobsjobsjobsjobsjobs or (ii) take up the banner.

  • When the Democrats call Romney names, Romney can either (i) attempt to show he is not that bad by moderating his positions or (ii) double down.

  • If presented with a flat tax proposal, Romney can either (i) kill it because of the “burden” it will place on those not paying anything, who will whine like fishwives or (ii) push it as a way to ensure the long-term health of his party by eliminating the idea of representation without taxation.

Which route will Romney take? To quote Philip Klein, “are you kidding me?”

Romney began running in 2006. He has had five years to figure out how to tell people what they want to hear and is bad at it. Those supporting him “because he can win” would do well to ask themselves “win what?” Is it worth having a cardboard cutout who will spend four years ignoring critical issues because he doesn’t want controversy?

Scott in PA writes:

The repeal of Obamacare is where I feel that Bachmann has an opening, but she doesn’t seem to be taking advantage. Bachmann is the only candidate that has pledged to help elect the 13 GOP Senators necessary to defeat a repeal filibuster. She needs to call out Romney by name, and state that an Executive Order “waiving” Obamacare in all 50 states is just an admission that his heart is not in repeal. She is in position to take ownership of the repeal issue.

Same with immigration. She needs to call Perry out by name and denounce his immigration positions in the way she called him out on the Gardasil issue. It should be obvious that immigration gets more traction than Gardasil.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 29, 2011 10:02 AM | Send

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