Romney's Health Care Policy Depends on Senate Outcomes

Article excerpt

Mitt Romney stirred up a hornets' nest earlier this month when he made comments on "Meet the Press" that some interpreted as his going wobbly on his promise to fully repeal Obamacare.

"I'm not getting rid of all of health care reform," Romney said. "Of course, there are a number of things that I like in health care reform that I'm going to put in place."

His campaign later clarified, in a statement to National Review, that when Romney said he would "make sure that those with pre- existing conditions can get coverage," Romney meant he would "ensure that discrimination against individuals with pre-existing conditions who maintain continuous coverage is prohibited." This didn't stop the flood of commentary over what Romney's true intentions would be if he won the presidency.

For all the debate over his remarks, though, the reality is that the policy Romney pursues on health care will be largely dictated by the postelection composition of the U.S. Senate.

Should Democrats retain control, there will be little hope of repealing Obamacare. The best Romney would be able to do would be to make small tweaks around the edges and delay the implementation of the parts of the law over which the executive branch was given regulatory discretion.

If Republicans gain control of the chamber and maintain their majority in the House of Representatives, health care policy will be influenced by the strength of the conservative caucus.

A perilous 50-50 Senate GOP majority with a Vice President Paul Ryan as the tie-breaking vote would make full repeal of Obamacare difficult, even if Romney were dedicated to it. Just one moderate Republican (such as a re-elected Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts or Sen. Susan Collins of Maine) could halt the move. The same could prove true even if Republicans had a stronger majority but one that wasn't comprised of enough principled conservatives.

If groups such as FreedomWorks and Sen. …