Santorum to Romney: 'You Just Don’t Have Credibility, Mitt, When It Comes to Repealing Obamacare'

October 19, 2011 - 12:37 AM

Republican debate in Las Vegas

The Republican presidential candidates at the beginning of Tuesday night's debate in Las Vegas, Nev. (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)

(CNSNews.com) - Former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania launched a frontal assault on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in last night's Republican presidential debate in Las Vegas, Nev., telling Romney he lacked credibility when he claimed he would repeal Obamacare because Romney's own health-care plan in Massachussets was the model for Obamacare.

Romney's Massachusetts plan, like Obama's plan, required that everybody purchase a government approved health-insurance plan.

Also like Obamacare, Romneycare promised to subsidize the health-insurance purchases of people below a certain income level. In Romneycare, families in Massachusetts earning below 300 percent of the poverty level get their insurance subsidized by other taxpayers. In Obamacare, families earning below 400 percent of poverty get their insurance subsidized by other taxpayers.

"You just don’t have credibility, Mitt, when it comes to repealing Obamacare," Santorum said in the debate, as he looked directly at Romney.

"Your plan was the basis for Obamacare," Santorum told Romney. "Your consultants helped Obama craft Obamacare. And to say that you are going to repeal it? You have no track record on that that we can trust you that you are going to do that. You don’t."

Romney tried to dismiss Santorum's attack by pointing out that since he has been a Republican presidential candidate he has repeatedly said he will repeal Obamacare and he thinks it would be wrong to impose a Romneycare-type policy on Americans outside of Massachusetts.

"This I think is either our eighth or ninth debate, and each chance I’ve had to talk about Obamacare I’ve made it very clear, and also in my book. At the time, by the way, I crafted the plan, and in the last campaign, I was asked is this something you would have the whole nation do?" said Romney. "And I said, no, this is something that was crafted for Massachusetts. It would be wrong to adopt this as a nation."

Santorum countered: "That is not what you said."

"You’re shaking your head," said Romney.

"Governor, no, that is not what you said," said Santorum. "It was in your book that it should be for everybody."

Texas Gov. Rick Perry interrupted at this moment, to back up Santorum that Romney had written in his book that Romneycare was a solution that should be enacted nationwide.

"You took it out of your book," Perry said to Romney.

Santorum and Perry were referring to an alteration that occured in the text of Romney's book "No Apology." In the hardcover and Kindle editions of the book that were published in 2010, according to the New York Times, Romney wrote of Romneycare, which included the individual health insurance mandate and insurance-premium subsidies: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country, and it can be done without letting government take over health care.

In the paperback edition of the book, which was published this year, Romney removed the words: "We can accomplish the same thing for everyone in the country."

In last night's debate, Romney did not directly address what Santorum and Perry said about his changing the words in his book.

"Guys, his turn, his turn, okay, and mine," said Romney to Perry.

"You took it out of your book," Santorum repeated.

"I tell you what, why don’t you let me speak," said Romney. "Rick, you had your chance, let me speak, Rick."

"Governor, you are allowed to change your position, you can’t change the facts," said Santorum.

"Rick, you had your chance, let me speak," said Romney.

"You are out of time," said Santorum. "You are out of time."

"Rick, I haven’t had a chance to respond yet because you were interrupting the entire time I was trying to speak," said Romney. "But let me make it very clear. And look, we’ll let everybody look at the fact checks. I was interviewed by Dan Balz [of the Washington Post]. I was in interviews in this debate stage with you four years ago. I was asked about the Massachusetts plan: Was it something I would impose on the nation? And the answer is: Absolutely not. It was something crafted for a state. And I’ve said time and again, Obamacare is bad news. It’s unconstitutional. It cost way too much money, a trillion dollars. And if I am president of the United States I will repeal it for the American people."

"Mitt," Santorum said, "the governor of Massachusetts is coming forward saying we have to pick up the job left undone by Romneycare, which is doing something about cutting health-care costs.

"What you did is exactly what Barack Obama did, focused on the wrong problem," Santorum continued. "Herman [Cain] always says you’ve got to find the right problem. Well, the right problem is health-care costs. What you did with a top-down government-run program was focus on the problem of health-care access. You expanded the pool of insurance without controlling cost. You’ve blown a hole in the budget up there, and you’ve authored in Obamacare, which is going to blow a hole in the budget of this country."

"I’m sorry Rick that you find so much to dislike in my plan, but I’ll tell you the people of Massachusetts like it by about a three-to-one margin," said Romney.

"And we dealt with a challenge that we had: a lot of people who expected government to pay their own way," said Romney. "We said, you know what, if people have the capacity to care for themselves and pay their own way, they should."

Romney did not mention that, like Obamacare, his plan makes taxpayers subsidize health insurance for people far above the poverty level.

"Now, I can tell you this, it is absolutely right that there is a lot that needs to be done," Romney continued. "And I didn’t get the job done in Massachusetts of getting the costs down in this country. It’s something I think we’ve got to do at the national level. I intend to do that. But one thing’s for sure, what Obama has done, was to impose on the nation a plan that will not work, that must be repealed, and when it comes to knowledge about health care and how to get our health-care system working, I may not be a doctor, like this one over here [Rep. Ron Paul], but I sure understand how to bring the costs of health-care down and how to build a system that works for the American people."

Free-market economists have often argued that when the government subsidizes something it inevitably inflates the cost of that good or service. In this view, a government subsidy of health-insurance premiums, which is a major feature of both Romneycare and Obamacare, would tend to drive health care costs up, not down.