GOP Candidates Dispute Gingrich, Romney Records On Individual Mandate

At Saturday night’s debate in Des Moines, Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Rep. Ron Paul, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney and former Sen. Rick Santorum spent a considerable amount of time discussing the 2010 health law. Romney and Gingrich were both attacked for supporting the concept of a requirement to buy health insurance. In the debate’s most talked-about moment, Romney offered to bet Perry $10,000 that what Perry was saying about Romney’s book wasn’t correct. 

The ABC News/Yahoo News debate was anchored by George Stephanopolous and Diane Sawyer and was co-sponsored by WOI-TV, The Des Moines Register and Drake University.

Courtesy of ABC, here is a transcript of the portions of the debate that dealt with health care, lightly edited:

MICHELE BACHMANN:  I’m 55 years old, I’ve spent 50 years in the real world as a private business woman living real life and– and building a real business. But you have to take a look at the candidates that — that are on the stage. You started out with Mitt Romney with Newt Gingrich, asking them about whether or not they’re the conservative in this race. 
But you have to take a look. You — when you look at Newt Gingrich, for 20 years, he’s been advocating for the individual mandate in healthcare. That’s — that’s longer than Barack Obama. Or if you look at Mitt Romney as the governor of Massachusetts, he’s the only governor that put into place socialized medicine. No other governor did. Our nominee has to stand on a stage and debate Barack Obama and be completely different.
I led 40,000 Americans to Washington D.C., to the Capitol, to fight ObamaCare. I didn’t advocate for it. If you look at — at — at Newt/Romney, they were for ObamaCare principles. If you look at Newt/Romney, they were for cap and trade. If you look at Newt/Romney, they were for the illegal immigration problem. And if you look at (LAUGH) Newt/Romney, they were for the $700 billion bailout. And you just heard Newt/Romney is also with Obama on the issue of the payroll extension.
So if you want a difference, Michele Bachmann is the proven conservative. It’s not Newt/Romney.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You threw– you threw a lot out there. (APPLAUSE) So let’s get both — both of them a chance to respond, Speaker Gingrich, you go first, because you were in there twice…

NEWT GINGRICH:  Well, Michele, you know, a lot of what you say just isn’t true, period. I have never — I have — I oppose cap and trade, I testified against it, the same day that Al Gore testified for it. I helped defeat it in the Senate through American solutions. It is simply untrue. I fought against ObamaCare at every step of the way. I did it with — the Center for Health Transformation was actively opposed, we actively campaigned against it. …

BACHMANN: Can I respond? (APPLAUSE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thirty seconds, then Governor Romney.

BACHMANN: Well you’d have to go back to 1993 when Newt first advocated for the individual mandate in healthcare, and as recently as May of this year, he was still advocating for the individual mandate in healthcare. And Governor Romney sent his team to the White House to meet with President Obama to teach them how to spread the RomneyCare model across the nation.
That’s why I say, Newt/Romney, you’ve got to have our nominee as someone who is a stark, distinct difference with President Obama. Who can go toe to toe and hold him accountable. President Obama knows me in Washington D.C. I’ve taken him on on issue after issue. Our nominee has to be willing to not agree with Barack Obama the — on these issues, but stand 180 degrees opposite of all the candidates on this stage I’ve been fighting President Obama for every year that I’ve been there, and I’ve taken him on. And I will take him on in the debate and defeat him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Romney. (APPLAUSE)

MITT ROMNEY: I know Newt Gingrich. And Newt Gingrich is a friend of mine. But, he and I are not clones, I promise. (LAUGH) That — that is not the case. So this Newt Gingrich thing, we gotta get that out of our mind altogether — Newt and Romney thing, sorry. Let — let me say this about — about health care. One, I didn’t send a team of anybody to meet with Barack Obama. I wish he’d have given me a call. I wish when he was putting together his health care plan, he’d have had the courtesy and– and perhaps the judgment to say, “Let me — let me talk to a governor. Let’s talk to somebody who’s dealt with a real problem that — that understands this topic,” and get on the phone.
I’d have said (BACKGROUND VOICE), “Mr. President, you’re going down a very, very bad path. Do not continue going down that path because what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna raise taxes on the American people. You’re gonna cut Medicare. Let’s not forget, only one president has ever cut Medicare for seniors in this country, and it’s Barack Obama. We’re gonna remind him of that time and time again.
And finally, the plan we put in place in Massachusetts, it deals with the 8 percent of our people who didn’t have insurance. The 92 percent of people who did have insurance, nothing changes for them. If I’m President of the United States, we’re gonna get rid of ObamaCare and return, under our constitution, the 10th Amendment, the responsibility and care of health care to the people in the states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna bring Governor Perry — (APPLAUSE) you’ve heard this argument, I wonder which side you come down on.

RICK PERRY: Yeah, well, I — I’m — I’m stunned, ’cause — the fact of the matter is, you know, Michele kinda hit the nail on the head when we talked about the individual mandate. Both of these gentlemen have been for the — individual mandate. And I’m even more stunned, Mitt, that you said you wished you could’ve talked to Obama and said — “You’re goin’ down the wrong path,” because that is exactly the path that you’ve taken Massachusetts. The Beacon Hill study itself said that there’s been 18,000 jobs lost because of that individual mandate.
The study continued to say that there’ve been over $8 billion of additional cost. I wish you coulda had the conversation with the people of Massachusetts a long time before that phone call would’ve been with — the — President Obama, ’cause the fact of the matter is, you’re for individual mandate. And you can get up and stand — up and talk about, you know, “I’m against it now. And I’m gonna — rescind ObamaCare. I’m gonna repeal ObamaCare.” But the record is very clear. You and Newt were for individual mandates. And that is the problem. And the question is then, “Who can stand on the stage, look Obama in the eye, and say, ‘ObamaCare is an abomination for this country,’?” And I’m gonna do that. And I can take that fight to him and win that fight.

DIANE SAWYER: Governor Romney, (INAUDIBLE). (APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: A good deal of what you said was right. Some was wrong. Speaker Gingrich said that he was for a federal individual mandate. That’s something I’ve always opposed. What we did in our state was designed by the people in our state for the needs of our state. You believe in the 10th Amendment. I believe in the 10th Amendment. The people of Massachusetts favor our plan three to one. They don’t like it, they can get rid of it. That’s the great thing about a democracy, where individuals under the 10th Amendment have the power to craft their own solutions.
By the way, the — the problem with President Obama’s plan is it does three things we didn’t in my opinion, among others. I understand we disagree on this. But among others, one, it raises taxes by $500 billion. We (NOISE) didn’t raise taxes. Two, it cuts Medicare by $500 billion. We didn’t do that, either. And three, it doesn’t just deal with the people that don’t have insurance. It’s a 2,000-page bill that takes over health care for all the American people. It is wrong for health care. It’s wrong for the American people. It’s unconstitutional. And I’m absolutely adamantly opposed to ObamaCare.
And if I’m the President of the United States, I will return to the people and the states the power they have under the constitution and they can craft the solutions they think are best for them. And my view– you had a mandate in your state. You mandate that girls at 12 years old had to get a vaccination for– for a sexually-transmitted disease. So it’s not like we have this big difference on mandates. We had different things we mandated over. I — I wanted to give people health insurance. You want to get young girls — a vaccine. There are differences.

SAWYER: Governor, if we could ask Speaker Gingrich to respond.

NEWT GINGRICH: Yeah, I — I just wanna make one point that’s historical. (CLEARS THROAT) In 1993, in fighting HillaryCare, virtually every conservative saw the mandate as a less-dangerous future than what Hillary was trying to do. The Heritage Foundation was a major advocate of it. After HillaryCare disappeared it became more and more obvious that mandates have all sorts of problems built into them. People gradually tried to find other techniques. I frankly was floundering, trying to find a way to make sure that people who could afford it were paying their hospital bills while still leaving an out so libertarians to not buy insurance. And that’s what we’re wrestling with. It’s now clear that the mandate, I think, is clearly unconstitutional. But, it started as a conservative effort to stop HillaryCare in the 1990s.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Governor Perry.

RICK PERRY: I’m listenin’ to you, Mitt, and I’m hearin’ you say all the right things. But I read your first book and it said in there that your mandate in Massachusetts which should be the model for the country. And I know it came out of — of the — the reprint of the book. But, you know, I’m just sayin’, you were for individual mandates, my friend.

ROMNEY: You know what? You’ve raised that before, Rick. And — you’re simply wrong.

PERRY: It was true then. (CHUCKLE) It’s true now.

ROMNEY: Rick, I’ll — I’ll tell you what. (CHUCKLE) 10,000 bucks — (APPLAUSE) $10,000 bet?

PERRY: I’m not in the bettin’ business, but, okay.

ROMNEY: Oh, I — I’ll —

PERRY: I’ll show you the book.

ROMNEY: I wrote — I’ve got the book. And —

PERRY: And we’ll show — (LAUGH)

ROMNEY: And I wrote the book. And I haven’t- – and chapter seven is a section called The Massachusetts Model. And I say as close as I can quote, I say, “In my view, each state should be able to — to fashion their own program for the specific needs of their distinct citizens.” And then I go on to talk about the states being the laboratories of democracy. And we could learn from one another. I have not said, in that book, first edition or the latest edition, anything about our plan being a national model imposed on the nation. The right course for America, and I said this durin’ the debates the last time around, I’ll say it now and time again, is to let individual states — this is a remarkable nation. This idea of federalism is so extraordinary. Let states craft their own solutions. Don’t have ObamaCare put on us by the federal government.

BACHMANN: George and Diane, can I just say something? This is such an important issue. We have one shot to get rid of ObamaCare, that’s it. It is 2012. Do we honestly believe that two men who’ve just stood on this stage and defended RomneyCare when it was put in place in Massachusetts and the individual mandate when he proposed it in 1993, are they honestly going to get rid of it in 2012?

MITT ROMNEY/NEWT GINGRICH: Yes.

BACHMANN: This is going to be a very– (LAUGH) but, I don’t think so. (CHEERING) It’s gonna be a very heavy lift.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I gotta get Senator Santorum in here.

BACHMANN: It’s gonna be a very heavy lift.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator.

RICK SANTORUM: This is not about what you say at a debate or what you say in a campaign when you’re talking to audiences that you wanna get — that you — that you know what you wanna hear. Back in 1994 when they would– I was running for the United States Senate and I did not support an individual mandate and I was a conservative, I supported something called Medical Savings Accounts that I drafted with John Kasich when I was in the House because I believe in bottom-up solving the problems in America, not top-down government solutions.
That’s what I learned — I actually learned it, some of it, in listening to some of your GOPAC tapes. But, you’ve strayed on that issue, as you have on others. The record is important. But what the question was about a consistent conservative, well, you can’t talk about whether someone’s consistent unless you look at their record. And I’d agree with Michele. I mean, I think Michele has been consistent in — as — as a consistent conservative. But, she’s been fighting and losing. I fought and won. I was in the United States Senate and I fought and — and passed Welfare Reform. It — I was the principal author when I was in the United States House and was — and — and managed the bill on the floor of the United States Senate.
I was the — leader on — on pro-life issues and pro-family issues. And I fought those issues and endured tough debates and won. I went out and fought on na– national security issues, conservative things like putting sanctions on Iran. And again, the consistent track record of being there in good times and in bad, and I think you heard the difference — you’re not gonna hear them talk about all the positions I took and flip-flopped on. I was there. I led. And I won.
And if you’re lookin’ for someone who can be a consistent conservative, and there’s others on this platform, but who can lead the fight, win the issues, and plus, win in states that are important for us to win elections like Pennsylvania and —

STEPHANOPOULOS: I’m tryin’ to be– we’ve tried to– I’ll risk using the word, we’ve tried to be liberal with the time. But, the time (LAUGH) — (UNINTELLIBIGLE) close as we can. We — and we are running up against a commercial break, but it did invoke you kinda swimming backwards, so 30 seconds to respond.

BACHMANN: Well, you know, I think the important thing to know is that you fight and that you lead. And I led when I — I was — when I was in the United States Congress, we were in the minority. Nancy Pelosi wasn’t interested in my pro-growth policy on health care. But, I didn’t sit on my hands. I saw what was happening to this country. Our country was going to lose because of socialized medicine.
And so I did everything I could, including bringing and leading 40,000 people to the Capitol to get the attention of the — of the Congress to get rid of ObamaCare. As President of the United States, my proven consistent record will be that I will take on every special interest. I will take on K Street. And I will pre-lobby. And I’ll make sure that I help elect 13 more Republican U.S. Senators so we have 60 senators in the Senate, a full complement in the House. And I won’t rest until we repeal ObamaCare. You can take it to the bank.

SANTORUM: But, if I can — if I can respond to that, because she referenced that — she referenced there (BACKGROUND VOICE) are differences between the two of us, I was in the minority in the House of Representatives, too. And along with Jim Nussle from here in Iowa, I — we formed a — a group called the Gang of Seven and we won. We exposed the House banking scandal. We overturned a huge scandal. We — we sent the — eventually sent the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski ended up in jail, because, no, we didn’t just fight. But we fight and we figured out a way to win, even in the minority.

SAWYER: And we wanna thank all of you. And again, these are the rules that you set up. We wanna be fair. And we wanna hear everything you have to say. These issues are so important. But, it really does help if you stick to the rules that were agreed on. And we appreciate that. And if– we could, when we come back, we’re gonna tackle some other very big issues, immigration, big questions about foreign policy, and also one about states and family values. And that will be when we come back. (MUSIC)

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STEPHANOPOULOS: I wanna stick with Yahoo because as you — we said at the start, we’re getting real-time feedback from our Yahoo audience. Over 12,000 people have already weighed in on Yahoo and ABCNews.com. An — and this is directed at — at Speaker Gingrich and — and — and Governor Romney, because more than 72 percent say right now they want to hear more from you about your past support for health care mandates.
That’s something that they’re still not fully satisfied with what they’ve heard — (NOISE) from you. And — and Speaker Gingrich — I mean, Governor Romney, let me begin with you because — you were clear. You’ve said you’ve always been against a federal mandate; you supported it in the State of Massachusetts. Where there has been some ambiguity, at least in the past, is whether you think that other states should try the mandate. Back in 2007, you said that you thought it would be good for most states to try it; now you say you wouldn’t encourage other states to try. Can you explain that?

ROMNEY: States can do whatever the heck they want to do; that’s the great thing about — (APPLAUSE) about our system. I — I think there’s a good deal that we did that people can look at and find as a model, that could —

STEPHANOPOULOS:The mandate?

ROMNEY: –help other state — if some — if they want to, sure. They could try what they think is best. I — that’s — it’s up to other states to try what works for them. Some will like that; some will think it’s a terrible idea. We had this idea of exchanges where people could buy insurance — from companies, private companies — we have no government insurance, by the way, in our state. It’s all — other than the federal Medicare/Medic — Medicaid programs. It’s all private pay. So people can learn from one another.
But my– (LAUGH) my plan– was designed for our state, and other states should have the right to create plans that work for them. And if they come up with something better than we did, then we can learn from them. But the idea of a federal government or a federal mandate, as you see with Obamacare, flies in the face of the Constitution, violates the tenth amendment. I think the Supreme Court will strike it down. If they don’t, I will.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker Gingrich — Congresswoman Bachmann pointed out that as — as late as May of this year, you supported some form of the mandate when everyone else had — had come out against it. What finally tipped you over and convinced you that it was unconstitutional?

GINGRICH: Well, I think first of all for the federal government to do it is unconstitutional because it means the Congress — the Congress, which could compel you to purchase this item, could compel you to purchase any item. And so the question of freedom would be d — would be missed. And any (MIC NOISE) majority could then decide to make you do virtually anything. I think that’s part of why you’re seeing a dramatic shift back towards limiting the federal government and towards imposing the tenth amendment as a very serious barrier.
I — I’ve been working on health issues since 1974. And I’ve been — and I tried to find a way to break out of where we are, because the fact is the whole third-party payment model, whether public or private, has grown more and more expensive, more and more difficult to sustain. And helped found the Center for Health Transformation that — for that reason, wrote a book called Saving Lives and Saving Money back in 2002.
We need to fundamentally rethink the entire health system to move back towards a doctor-patient relationship, and back toward something like what Rick Santorum talked about with health savings accounts where people are directly engaged in their own health and in taking care of themselves to a much greater degree than they are in the current insurance system.

SAWYER: If I can switch to this question, and — and it is about health care, because a number of people — in fact, I was just at a pharmacy here — I — have a cough. But I was (LAUGH) at the pharmacy here in Iowa, and the pharmacists were talking about a big driver of health care costs. And they specifically mentioned habits, unhealthy habits that we all need to learn to be better on at a young age. They talked about obesity, they talked about exercise. If I can ask you, Congressman Paul: Anything government should do on these fronts?

REP. RON PAUL: On — on medical? Or?

SAWYER: On these fronts, specifically, of healthy behavior at very young — ages for — it’s —

PAUL: No, essentially not, but they have to be — a referee. If people are doing things that hurt other people, yes. But if you embark on instituting a society where government protects you from yourself, you’re in big trouble, and that’s what they’re doing. (APPLAUSE) I think — I think what we’ve had here is a demonstration of — why should we have a candidate that’s gonna have to explain themselves? 70 percent of the people want further explanations on what your positions are. So I think that it is endless. But you talk about the- – the Obamacare using force, but that’s all government is, is force.
I mean, do you have a choice about paying Medicare taxes? So there’s not a whole of different — you’re forced to buy insurance. That’s one step further. But you have to stop with force. Once government uses force to mold behavior or mold the economy, they’ve overstepped the bounds and they’ve violated the whole concept of our revolution and our Constitution. (APPLAUSE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: We — we are running short on time. I just want to ask quickly, does anyone disagree with the first part of Congressman Paul’s answer there, where he said the government really shouldn’t be getting involved in these broader issues of behavior?

PERRY: Listen, I happen to think that the states — that’s their call, not the federal government.

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