Uh Oh: Did Mitt Romney Support a Federal Healthcare Mandate in 1994?

Posted: May 11, 2011 2:06 PM
As the political world awaits his major healthcare address tomorrow, a new headache has emerged for Mitt Romney:

The day before his big health care speech, Blue Mass Group explodes a depth charge right under Mitt Romney. They point to "Stormin' Mormon," the pre-1994 election profile of Romney by John Judis. That year, running uphill against Ted Kennedy, Romney said he'd support the health care compromise introduced by Sen. John Chafee. That compromise included a mandate to buy health insurance, something Democrats never tired of pointing out in 2009 and 2010 when the Affordable Care Act's compromise was characterized as tyranny or socialism.

Here's Romney's 1994 quote, as reported at the time by The New Republic (emphasis mine):

The question about Romney is where he would stand in Congress's internecine battles. Would he side with Republicans such as John Chafee who have tried to develop constructive alternatives to Democratic legislation or with Republicans such as Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich who have been willing to paralyze Congress for the sake of embarrassing the Clinton administration? Romney has indicated that he would side with the moderate wing. He endorsed the crime bill and refused to back Gingrich's jejune "Contract with America." He told me he would have backed Chafee's health care bill. "I'm willing to vote for things that I am not wild with," he said.

One of Romney's top defenses of his flagging Massachusetts healthcare law -- which, like Obamacare, includes an individual mandate -- is an appeal to federalism.  He argues that states are afforded a wider berth than the federal government when it comes to policy exploration, and that an experiment in a state-level "laboratory of democracy" may not be constitutional at the national level.  From NRO's preview of tomorrow's speech:

The Romney campaign is emphasizing that Romney’s health care position shouldn’t be seen as a radical departure from his position in 2008, but a continuation of his emphasis that the states, not the federal government, should decide what health care policies to pursue.

If Mitt Romney did, in fact, endorse Congressional legislation that would have instituted an individual mandate at the federal level in the mid-1990's, I'm not sure how to square that with the stance he'll articulate tomorrow.  Many conservatives like and respect Mitt Romney, but are wary of his propensity to adopt positions on multiple sides of an issue, as his immediate political needs dictate.  This revelation (again, if true), will likely inflame those concerns.

I've reached out to the Romney camp for a response to this report.  Once I hear from them, I will update this post immediately.  

UPDATE - I received the following statement from Romney spokesperson Gail Gitcho:

"Governor Romney has made it very clear over the last many years, including during the 2008 presidential cycle, that he opposes a federally imposed individual mandate."