Renewed focus on Tommy Thompson’s ObamaCare support
While most hotly contested primaries are over or soon coming to end, the battle for the Wisconsin Republican Senate nomination is a race that could get interesting before voters head to the polls on August 14th. Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is currently leading the pack, which includes Mark Neumann, a former Congressman backed by conservative groups.
But now that the recall election is over and with conservatives fired up by the Supreme Court’s disappointing decision in the ObamaCare case, Thompson is coming under a fresh round of fire for his past support of the health care law:
President Barack Obama sought to head off a conservative rebellion on health care three years ago, pointedly declaring that some Republicans were rising above partisanship by calling for comprehensive reforms.
Including, he said, “Republican Tommy Thompson.”
Those 2009 comments have come back to bite Thompson in his Wisconsin Republican Senate primary in which his conservative opponents are trying to make him the first real political victim of the landmark Supreme Court ruling upholding the Affordable Care Act. The Wisconsin attacks will test the continued potency of the issue among GOP base voters and may offer a measure of whether the tea party still has the power in Republican primaries to purge more moderate candidates in swing states.
Thompson’s campaign rivals are plotting a fresh round of attacks, some of which revolve around his past health care comments, in order to tear down his comfortable lead in the polls.
Thompson makes it clear he opposes the 2010 health care law, and he has since become a vocal proponent of repealing the legislation, which he’s furiously trying to promote in public appearances and paid advertising across the state.
But when the measure was moving through Congress in 2009, Thompson praised a leading Democratic version of the legislation and urged lawmakers to fashion a comprehensive deal, even though conservative activists and GOP leaders were trying to block any deal. He met with senior Obama administration officials after the law was enacted to talk about ideas for implementing it just as the “repeal” mantra was growing louder on the right. And several years earlier, Thompson hailed the individual mandate as a crucial way to ensure patients are covered by health insurance.
“This is a little bit opposed to what Republicans really think, but the truth of the matter is that just like automobile insurance; you gotta have coverage,” he said at a 2006 health care forum in the aftermath of Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts law. Thompson helped pave the way for the Romney law by granting the state a waiver when he was secretary of HHS under President George W. Bush.
This isn’t the first time that Thompson has been called out for the work he did in supporting ObamaCare. Last year, the Club for Growth ran an ad featuring President Barack Obama, as noted above, thanking Thompson for backing the law. Thompson tried to deny it, but the record is clear that he was on board.
Back in 2009, Thompson, along with former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, endorsed ObamaCare in an op-ed in The New York Times. Here’s the key paragraph from the editorial:
The bill that the Senate Finance Committee will vote out for consideration by the full Senate this week is another important step toward achieving the goal of health care reform this year. It moves us down the path of providing affordable high-quality health care for all and expanding coverage for millions.
Failure to reach an agreement on health reform this year is not an acceptable option. Inaction will only increase the burden of rapidly rising health care costs and care denied for millions of American families. Inaction will increase the crushing burden of rising health costs on American businesses that are struggling to create jobs and lead America’s economic recovery. It is time for action.
There is little question that Thompson is the most competitive of the Republicans running. But there has to be a solid majority in the Senate to repeal ObamaCare. Would a Sen. Thompson cast that vote? It’s hard to say, given what we know, that he would.