A top Democrat in the Senate took a rare direct shot at GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney on Tuesday, arguing that Romney's past support of health care reform means the issue is "off the table" during the fall elections.
Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, the Democratic Conference vice chairman and former head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, blasted Romney during an outdoor press conference near the Supreme Court. The court is spending this week reviewing the constitutionality of the 2010 health care reform law that is President Barack Obama's signature domestic achievement.
Schumer said Romney's support of a similarly structured reform program when he was governor of Massachusetts disqualifies him from attacking Obama over the issue this fall, should Romney become the Republican presidential nominee.
"Romney's trying to disown what he did in Massachusetts, now that the individual mandate is unpopular with conservatives," Schumer said. "No matter what he tries to say now, Mitt Romney is a walking, talking amicus brief in favor of the president's health care law.
"If he tries to make it an issue in a debate with President Obama, it's just going to confirm that he's the Etch-A-Sketch candidate. If Mitt Romney is the nominee, health care in effect will be off the table as an issue."
Romney has answered such criticism throughout the GOP primary process by stressing the differences between the plan he ushered into law in Massachusetts and Obama's plan. Most commonly, he has said that the Massachusetts law was designed specifically as a statewide program, not a nationwide model such as Obama's law.
Justices on Tuesday were considering the so-called "individual mandate" provision of the health care law, which requires Americans to obtain health insurance by Jan. 1, 2014 or face a fine. A final day of oral arguments is scheduled for Wednesday.
by RTT Staff Writer
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