Former Utah Sen. Bob Bennett, a Republican who lost his party’s nomination in 2010 — in part due to his past work with Democrats on health care reform — told TPM that he had few complaints about Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling.
“I’m delighted to see any kind of rein on the Commerce Clause, because I think the Commerce Clause has been used farther than it should have,” Bennett said. “I can’t really complain about the upholding of the idea of the individual mandate, because I had an individual mandate in my own bill. The system won’t work without it. You don’t have a big enough risk pool to pay for everything if you don’t have everyone in it. And that’s the purpose of the individual mandate, to get everyone in the risk pool, and then the numbers will work.
Bennett ultimately voted against the Affordable Care Act, though he co-wrote a bill in 2009 that included a requirement that Americans maintain insurance. He said it was possible to believe the law is simultaneously constitutional and bad policy. “The point [Chief Justice John Roberts] makes, that something can be a bad bill and still be constitutional, is still a valid point. And that’s a point Sen. McConnell made today, that just because a bad bill is constitutional, we don’t have to believe it’s sound policy.
“I don’t want that to be misinterpreted as I’m now a backer of Obamacare, as I’m not — or the Affordable Care Act, to use the correct title,” Bennett said. “I still think it’s a bad piece of legislation. Its financial structure doesn’t hold up at all. It’s paid for with smoke and mirrors that are simply not gonna work.”
But Bennett confirmed that health care reform itself isn’t going away, now that the court has weighed in.
“I believe that the health care system we had before it was passed was deeply flawed, and needed reform. So the issue of health care reform is obviously here to stay. Now how much of the Affordable Care Act is the solution, and how much amendment to the Affordable Care Act or a replacement if it does get repealed, that I don’t know. But yes, health care reform is here to stay.”
Bennett downplayed the impact that his past support for the mandate may have had on his defeat at the 2010 Utah Republican convention. GOP Sen. Mike Lee eventually won the seat.
“Probably a little, but certainly not much. The atmosphere in 2010 was: Throw out all of the incumbents. And the thing that contributed most to my defeat was that I was in office.”
Bennett believes his own defeat in 2010 helped trigger the political recovery of Utah’s other senator, Orrin Hatch, who easily won his primary on Tuesday, beating back a tea party-aligned challenger.
“People said we hated what happened to Sen. Bennett, and we’re not gonna let it happen to Sen. Hatch. I dare say if the two of us had been reversed, and he had been the candidate in 2010 and I had been the candidate in 2012, I think he would have been defeated then, and I would have been re-elected now.”