Romney quiet on Supreme Court healthcare challenge

Caught in a difficult position on healthcare, Mitt Romney has kept his thoughts close to the vest on the Supreme Court’s decision to examine whether parts of President Obama’s healthcare reform law are constitutional.

Romney hasn’t made any public statements about Monday’s Supreme Court announcement. In an appearance Tuesday at a sign factory in Columbia, S.C., Romney reiterated his call for the law to be repealed, but didn’t mention the court case, and took no questions after his speech.

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Romney spokeswoman Andrea Saul also avoided referencing the Supreme Court challenge or individual mandate in affirming that the former Massachusetts governor considered the law bad policy.

“On healthcare, what’s important is that states retain the ability to pursue their own solutions, not have one imposed on them by Washington,” Saul said. 

Complicating matters further for Romney, the Supreme Court will hear the case in March, with a decision expected in June. If Romney locks up the Republican nomination and is head to head with Obama at the same time the decision comes out, he will likely be forced to spend a lot of time addressing one of his weakest issues.

The Obama administration pointed out that it asked the court to take up the issue sooner rather than later — even though it puts the decision squarely in the middle of an election year.

Democrats have long cited the healthcare reform measures Romney instituted in Massachusetts, including an individual mandate, as the template for the national reforms the GOP is now decrying. Romney has maintained that what was needed for one state should not be imposed on everyone in the country, allowing him to defend both his record as governor and his position opposing Obama’s reforms.

For months, the Republican Party has spoken with one voice in support of repealing the law, using the individual mandate as a potent rallying cry in their call for less government interference and spending.

“Republicans recognize that ObamaCare’s mandates are not only unconstitutional, but they also serve as a roadblock to economic recovery,” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said Monday in a news release. “Hopefully, the Supreme Court will recognize ObamaCare as an egregious assault on states’ rights.”

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who calls for a repeal in almost every debate, used it as an opportunity to differentiate herself not only from Obama, but also from the other GOP candidates.

“We can’t settle for a Republican nominee who believes that an individual healthcare mandate, the main issue of controversy before the court, is constitutional — and either advocated for it, implemented it or used it to justify a forced healthcare decision in their state,” Bachmann said.

While Bachmann almost never calls out her opponents by name, her words seemed directed primarily in Romney’s direction. But former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has been stuck in Romney’s shadow for much of the presidential contest, left no doubt about whom he was targeting.

“I do think that that will be the end of ObamaCare. That’ll be probably the end of Massachusetts care, RomneyCare,” Huntsman said Monday on Bloomberg Television, predicting that the Supreme Court would throw out the Obama-backed law.


- This post was posted at 10:43 a.m. and updated at 11:08 a.m. and at 6:59 p.m.