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Mitt Romney has reportedly chosen an Obamacare proponent to lead his transition team. Romney's attempt to soft-pedal the choice of former Bush appointee Mike Leavitt to the important post shows an understanding of how controversial the pick might be.
Politico reports that Leavitt is slated to lead Romney's transition after Romney defeats Barack Obama in the November 6 presidential election, and may have a high-level position in the next administration.
“He would make a great chief of staff in the White House,” said former Utah Sen. Robert Bennett, who served when Leavitt was in office. “He was a very pragmatic governor. He was not particularly ideological and I think the tea party folks would not be that happy with him. … He and I saw the world a lot alike. He can also be very tough.”
Continuing with an apparent strategy among the new media segment of the Democrat Media Complex, Politico has found a potential wedge to drive between ideological conservatives and partisan Republicans over Obamacare. The Romney campaign should respond, if it would like to keep its base happy.
Leavitt is a big proponent of the early implementation of Obamacare exchanges, the state-level apparatus at the core of Obamacare. Most conservatives and libertarians oppose implementation, on principle and on practical grounds. They want the federal government to implement any exchanges. States who do implement one will be forced to use monies otherwise designated from their state budgets, or find other revenue streams (raising taxes) to cover the costs.
With the Supreme Court set to rule on the constitutionality of Obamacare this month, it is important for states to signal rejection of the law. If states begin to implement it, the Court may decide Obamacare has become too entrenched to overturn.
Ben Domenech, Research Fellow at The Heartland Institute, made his case for holding the line on exchange implementation here (pdf).
The pragmatist Leavitt has other motives than he presents. It's just another example of the inherent cronyism in the exchange structure.
Over the past year, Leavitt and his staff have repeatedly tangled with conservative and libertarian think-tanks and advocates who oppose him on this point, understanding that there is no such thing as a state run exchange under Obamacare, and that this represents the primary front for states in the battle against Obamacare's implementation.
Last year at the National Governors Association, Leavitt urged exchange implementation -- but as Domenech has pointed out repeatedly, Leavitt does not inform his audiences that he makes money when states do so. Leavitt described the exchange implementation process as
... a very practical solution to a problem that needs to be solved.” He warned governors who are reluctant to move forward with their state-level exchanges that their intransigence will only empower federal regulators.
It is untrue that rejecting an exchange empowers federal regulators. The health care law leaves essentially everything up to the federal HHS Secretary, and any current leeway given to states can be wiped away under a new administration -- or a continuation of the current one -- if the administration decides the state implementation is inadequate.
In a statement of stunning separation from reality, Leavitt called Obamacare a "compromise" that gives the states the flexibility they need. States had no part in the compromise, which was hatched behind closed doors between the left and the far left in Congress at the time it was passed.
Because of a quirk in the law, federal subsidies for health insurance in the exchanges will only kick in if a state implements its exchange. The fewer states who implement their own, the more likely the law will have to be changed, opening it up to large-scale changes more agreeable to conservatives.
As Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute put it on the FreedomWorks Live Blog May 22,
To be clear, establishing a state-run Exchange does not prevent a government takeover of your state's health insurance markets. That takeover took place on March 23, 2010. That's the date on which states lost their sovereignty over their health insurance markets. Establishing an Exchange makes states complicit in that federal takeover. Heck, by creating Exchanges, states are paying for the privilege of having their sovereignty taken away.
Constitutional conservatives and libertarians need to continue to tell their elected representatives that nothing less than full repeal of Obamacare is acceptable. And electing strongly principled leaders who will press that case in the House and Senate must continue to be a top priority in 2012 and beyond, no matter who occupies the White House -- or who leads the transition team.