Jim DeMint’s Revisionist History of Obamacare

“Because of Romney and Romneycare, we did not litigate the Obamacare issue.”

South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint speaks at the Voters Values Summit at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington on September 17, 2010.
National Journal
Lucia Graves
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Lucia Graves
Sept. 30, 2013, 10:49 a.m.

As Jim De­Mint sees it, Re­pub­lic­ans were ham­strung from truly cam­paign­ing against the Af­ford­able Care Act in last year’s elec­tion be­cause of … Rom­ney­care.

“Be­cause of Rom­ney and Rom­ney­care, we did not lit­ig­ate the Obama­care is­sue,” he told Bloomberg Busi­nes­s­week in a story pub­lished Thursday.

At first glance, De­Mint is mak­ing a val­id point and he’s cer­tainly not alone in mak­ing it. As Slate’s Dave Wei­gel points out, Rick San­tor­um of­ten told his audi­ences that Rom­ney was “the single worst Re­pub­lic­an to run on the is­sue of Obama­care.”

But there are also a few prob­lems with that state­ment. As gov­ernor of Mas­sachu­setts, Rom­ney spear­headed re­forms that served as a mod­el for the Af­ford­able Care Act, but that cer­tainly didn’t stop him from cam­paign­ing ag­gress­ively against Obama’s sig­na­ture le­gis­la­tion.

In last year’s cam­paign Rom­ney re­peatedly vowed to re­peal Obama­care on day one of his pres­id­ency. For any doubters, here’s the video:

Per­haps De­Mint, the former GOP sen­at­or who left Cap­it­ol Hill this year to head up the Her­it­age Found­a­tion, meant oth­er Re­pub­lic­ans were afraid to drive home the mes­sage, or as he put it “lit­ig­ate”? Well, here’s what Rep. Paul Ry­an, then the Re­pub­lic­an veep nom­in­ee, had to say:

“The Amer­ic­an people will be the judge and jury on this law come Novem­ber.” Usu­ally a ver­dict comes after lit­ig­a­tion, and Ry­an made clear he wasn’t set­tling for the Su­preme Court’s ver­dict.

That elec­tion has long since come and gone, and Rom­ney lost — but not be­cause Re­pub­lic­ans failed to cam­paign against the Af­ford­able Care Act. The Amer­ic­an people have made their ver­dict on Re­pub­lic­an re­peal ef­forts quite clear: Amer­ic­ans say con­gres­sion­al Re­pub­lic­ans should ac­cept that the Af­ford­able Care Act is the law of the land by a mar­gin of 50 per­cent to 43 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to a Sept. 20-23 Bloomberg poll.

They “screwed it up bey­ond be­lief, and now they want to go back to noth­ing,” John Beck, a 57-year-old liber­tari­an Re­pub­lic­an from Aus­tin, Texas, told Bloomberg.

Yet De­Mint, who’s been in the van­guard of the move­ment to de­fund the 2010 health care law, ap­pears to be rolling straight ahead with his talk­ing points. As re­cently as Au­gust he was telling sup­port­ers as part of Her­it­age Ac­tion’s nine-city “De­fund Obama­care” tour that Pres­id­ent Obama may ac­tu­ally sign a bill that guts his sig­na­ture le­gis­lat­ive achieve­ment.

Real­ity check: as re­cently as last week Obama re­it­er­ated that he won’t back down from ef­forts to block or delay the im­ple­ment­a­tion of his health care law. He called Re­pub­lic­an threats to tie the is­sue to rais­ing the na­tion’s debt ceil­ing “black­mail.”

“The Af­ford­able Care Act is here to stay,” the pres­id­ent said at a com­munity col­lege in Largo, Md., a sub­urb of Wash­ing­ton. “I will not ne­go­ti­ate on any­thing when it comes to the full faith and cred­it of the United States.”

Then there’s the fact that De­Mint ac­tu­ally sup­por­ted Rom­ney in part be­cause of Rom­ney’s health care ac­com­plish­ments as gov­ernor of Mas­sachu­setts. Here’s part of an in­ter­view with Byron York in the Na­tion­al Re­view (my em­phas­is ad­ded):

“He has demon­strated, when he stepped in­to gov­ern­ment in a very dif­fi­cult state, that he could work in a dif­fi­cult par­tis­an en­vir­on­ment, take some good con­ser­vat­ive ideas, like private health in­sur­ance, and ap­ply them to the need to have every­one in­sured,” De­Mint says. “Those kind of ideas show an abil­ity to bring people to­geth­er that we haven’t seen in na­tion­al polit­ics for a while. We don’t need the na­tion to be more po­lar­ized.

That’s where he was in 2007. It’s been an in­ter­est­ing “evol­u­tion.”

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