In Thursday night’s Fox News/Washington Examiner debate in Ames, Iowa, all of the Republicans seeking the presidential nomination declared vociferously their opposition to the health law. But they accused each other of not being strong enough on the issue. They specifically focused on the constitutionality of the individual mandate and the requirement that everyone have insurance. Once again invoking the term “Obamneycare,” Tim Pawlenty attacked Mitt Romney on the Massachusetts health plan. This video has highlights of the exchanges. And below, we have a fuller transcript of the health-care interchanges throughout the debate.
Former Minn. Gov. Tim Pawlenty: Where is Barack Obama on these issues? You can’t find his plans on some of the most pressing financial issues of our country. For example, where is Barack Obama’s plan on Social Security reform, Medicare reform, Medicaid reform? In fact, I’ll offer a prize tonight to anybody in this auditorium or anyone watching on television: if you can find Barack Obama’s specific plan on any of those items, I will come to your house and cook you dinner (laughter).
Rep. Michelle Bachmann, R- Minn, to Pawlenty: [G]overnor, when you were governor in Minnesota you implemented cap and trade in our state and you praised the unconstitutional individual mandates and called for requiring all people in our state to purchase health insurance that the government would mandate. The policies that the governor advocated for were cap and trade. He praised and wanted to require Minnesotans to purchase the unconstitutional individual mandate in health care. And he said the era of small government is over. I have a very consistent record of fighting very hard against Barack Obama and his unconstitutional measures in congress. I’m very proud of that record. That is what qualifies me, as a fighter and representative of the people, to go to Washington, D.C. and to the White House.
People are looking for a champion. They want someone who has been fighting. When it came to health care, I brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington to fight the unconstitutional individual mandates. I didn’t praise it.
Pawlenty: Well, I’m really surprised that Congresswoman Bachmann would say those things. That’s not the kinds of things she said when I was governor of the state of Minnesota. And moreover, she’s got a record of misstating and making false statements. And that’s another example of that list.
She says that she’s fighting for these things. She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP, we got TARP. She said she’s got a titanium spine. It’s not her spine we’re worried about, it’s her record of results.
Bachmann: I was at the tip of the spear fighting against the implementation of ObamaCare in the United States Congress. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barack Obama ran Congress, but I gave them a run for their money.
Chris Wallace: Governor Pawlenty, you admit that you muffed a question in the last debate about Governor Romney’s health care plan, so I’m going to give you another chance. You’ve said that the president’s plan and the Romney plan are so similar that you called them both ObamneyCare. And you also said this: “I don’t think you can prosecute the political case against President Obama if you are a co-conspirator.” Could you please tell Governor Romney, who’s two down from you, what he and President Obama have conspired to do?
Pawlenty: Yeah, I don’t want to miss that chance again, Chris. (laughter) Mitt, look, Obamacare was patterned after Mitt’s plan in Massachusetts. And for Mitt or anyone else to say that there aren’t substantial similarities or they’re not essentially the same plan, it just isn’t credible. So that’s why I called it Obamneycare, and I think that’s a fair label, and I’m happy to call it that again tonight. But that’s not the only similarity between Governor Romney’s record and President Obama’s record. Again, if we’re going to take him on, we have to contrast with him on other important issues. For example, in spending, I’ve got the best spending record. I took Minnesota’s historic spending from highs to lows. Mitt ran up spending in his watch as governor 40-plus percent over his four years. That’s not going to contrast very well with the president. In the area of judicial selections, the Boston Globe said that two out of three or so of Mitt’s judicial selections, judge selections were either pro-choice, Democrat, or liberal. I appointed conservatives, strict constructionists to my supreme court. So we’re going to have to take it to Barack Obama, and we’re going to have to show contrast, not similarities.
Wallace: Governor Romney, I’m going to ask you a question about health care, but I’d like to give you 30 seconds to respond to the criticism of other parts of your record.
Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney: I think I like Tim’s answer at the last debate better. There are some similarities between what we did in Massachusetts and what President Obama did, but there are some big differences. And one is, I believe in the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. And that says that powers not specifically granted to the federal government are reserved by the states and the people.
We put together a plan that was right for Massachusetts. The president took the power of the people and the states away from them and put in place a one-size-fits-all plan. It’s bad law. It’s bad constitutional law. It’s bad medicine. And if I’m president of the United States, on my first day, I’ll direct the secretary of HHS to grant a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states.
Wallace: Do you think that government at any level has the right to make someone buy a good or service just because they are a U.S. resident? Where do you find that authority, that mandating authority, government making an individual buy a good or service in the Constitution?
Romney: Are you familiar with the Massachusetts constitution? I am. And the Massachusetts constitution allows states, for instance, to say that our kids have to go to school. It has that power. The question is, is that a good idea or bad idea? And I understand different people come to different conclusions.
What we did in our state was this. We said, look, we’re finding people that can afford insurance, health insurance, that are going to the hospital and getting the state to pay for them. Taxpayers are picking up hundreds of millions of dollars of costs from people who are free riders.
We said, you know what? We’re going to insist that those people who can afford to pay for themselves do so. We believe in personal responsibility. And if the people aren’t willing to do that, then they’re going to help the government pay for them. That was our conclusion.
The right answer for every state is to determine what’s right for those states and not to impose Obamacare on the nation. That’s why I’ll repeal it.
Wallace: Congresswoman Bachmann, you are a big believer in the 10th Amendment and the idea of granting power to the states. So let me ask you: Does that make any difference whether mandatory health insurance is being imposed by a state or by the federal government?
Bachmann: No, I don’t believe that it does. I think that the government is without authority to compel a citizen to purchase a product or a service against their will, because effectively when the federal government does that, what they’re doing is they are saying to the individual, they are going to set the price of what that product is.
If the federal government can force American citizens or if a state can force their citizens to purchase health insurance, there is nothing that the state cannot do. This is clearly an unconstitutional action, whether it’s done at the federal level or whether it’s the state level.
And I will not rest, as the president of the United States, until we repeal Obamacare. And as the nominee of the Republican Party, I also will not rest until I can also elect an additional 13 senators who agree with me so we’ll have a filibuster-proof Senate and we can actually repeal Obamacare. (applause)
Wallace: Congressman Paul, you are a constitutional expert, and you talk a lot about the Constitution. What do you think of this argument, that the state has a constitutional right to make someone buy a good or service just because they’re a resident, not because they’re driving and need a driver’s license, but just the fact that they are a resident?
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas: No, the way I understand the Constitution, the federal government can’t go in and prohibit the states from doing bad things. And I would consider that a very bad thing, but you don’t send in a federal police force because they’re doing it and throw them in a court. So they do have that leeway under our Constitution.
But we have big trouble in this medical care problem. And we have drifted so far from any of our care being delivered by the marketplace. And once you get the government involved — and both parties have done it. They’ve developed a bit of a medical care delivery system based on corporatism. The corporations are doing quite well, whether it’s Obama or under the Republicans.
The drug companies do well. The insurance companies do well. The organized medicine do well. The management companies do well. The patient and the doctors suffer. There’s a wedge. Every time you have the government get in here with these regulations, and have these mandates, there’s a wedge driven in between the doctor and the patient. We have to get the people more control of their care, and that’s why these medical savings accounts could at least introduce the notion of market delivery of medical care. (applause)
Wallace: Senator Santorum, I see you wanting to jump in. Your thoughts about Romneycare?
Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum: Well, first, I was the first author of medical savings accounts back in 1992 with John Kasich in the House, but this is — this is a very important argument here. This is the 10th Amendment run amok. Michele Bachmann says that she would go in and fight health care being imposed by states, mandatory health, but she wouldn’t fight go in and fight marriage being imposed by the states, that would be OK.
We have Ron Paul saying, oh, what the states want to do — whatever the states want to do under the 10th Amendment’s fine. So if the states want to pass polygamy, that’s fine. If the states want to impose sterilization, that’s fine. Our country is based on moral laws, ladies and gentlemen. There are things the states can’t do. Abraham Lincoln said the states do not have the right to do wrong.
I respect the 10th Amendment, but we are a nation that has values. We are a nation that was built on a moral enterprise, and states don’t have the right to tramp over those because of the 10th Amendment.