Testy Santorum, Romney Tussle Over Mass. Health Reform

Testy Santorum, Romney Tussle Over Mass. Health Reform

In the last scheduled Republican debate, candidates Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul attacked the Obama administration on its birth control stance. Santorum dovetailed the issue into an attack of the 2006 Massachusetts health reform law, which Romney, as governor, endorsed.

Here is a transcript of the health care portions of the debate:

KING: Welcome back to the Mesa Arts Center and the Arizona Republican Presidential debate. Let's get right back to questioning the four contenders for the Republican nomination. We take a question now from cnnpolitics.com. You can see it up on the screen here. 

Since birth control is the latest hot topic, which candidate believes in birth control, and if not, why? As you can see -- it's a -- it's a very popular question in the audience, as we can see. Look, we're not going to spend a ton of time on this but it is -- please.

GINGRICH: Can I just make a point?

KING: Sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These guys are giving you some feedback here, John.

KING: I see that. I see that.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they're making it very clear.

GINGRICH: No, I think -- look, I think there's -- I want to make two -- I want to make two quick point, John. 

The first is there is a legitimate question about the power of the government to impose on religion activities which any religion opposes. That's legitimate.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Sure is.

GINGRICH: But I just want to point out, you did not once in the 2008 campaign, not once did anybody in the elite media ask why Barack Obama voted in favor of legalizing infanticide. OK? So let's be clear here. 

(APPLAUSE)

GINGRICH: If we're going to have a debate about who the extremist is on these issues, it is President Obama who, as a state senator, voted to protect doctors who killed babies who survived the abortion. It is not the Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: John, what's happened -- and you recall back in the debate that we had George Stephanopoulos talking out about birth control, we wondered why in the world did contraception -- and it's like, why is he going there? Well, we found out when Barack Obama continued his attack on religious conscience. 

I don't think we've seen in the history of this country the kind of attack on religious conscience, religious freedom, religious tolerance that we've seen under Barack Obama. Most recently, of course -- 

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: -- most recently requiring the Catholic Church to provide for its employees and its various enterprises health care insurance that would include birth control, sterilization and the morning-after pill. Unbelievable. 

And he retried to retreat from that but he retreated in a way that was not appropriate, because these insurance companies now have to provide these same things and obviously the Catholic Church will end up paying for them. 

But don't forget the decision just before this, where he said the government -- not a church, but the government should have the right to determine who a church's ministers are for the purposes of determining whether they're exempt from EEOC or from workforce laws or labor laws. 

He said the government should make that choice. That went all the way to the Supreme Court. There are a few liberals on the Supreme Court. They voted 9-0 against President Obama. His position -- 

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: -- his position -- his position on religious tolerance, on religious conscience is clear, and it's one of the reasons the people in this country are saying we want to have a president who will stand up and fight for the rights under our Constitution, our first right, which is for freedom of religion.

KING: So let's focus the time -- let's focus the time we spend on this on the role of the president and your personal views and question the role of government. 

And Senator Santorum, this has come up -- yes, it has come up because of the president's decision in the campaign. It's also come up because of some of the things you have said on the campaign trail. When you were campaigning in Iowa, you told an evangelical blog, if elected, you will talk about what, quote, "no president has talked about before -- the dangers of contraception." Why?

SANTORUM: What I was talking about is we have a society -- Charles Murray just wrote a book about this and it's on the front page of "The New York Times" two days ago, which is the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active. 

What we're seeing is a problem in our culture with respect to children being raised by children, children being raised out of wedlock, and the impact on society economically, the impact on society with respect to drug use and all -- a host of other things when children have children. 

And so, yes, I was talking about these very serious issues. And, in fact, as I mentioned before, two days ago on the front page of "The New York Times", they're talking about the same thing. The bottom line is we have a problem in this country, and the family is fracturing. 

Over 40 percent of children born in America are born out of wedlock. How can a country survive if children are being raised in homes where it's so much harder to succeed economically? It's five times the rate of poverty in single-parent households than it is in two-parent homes. We can have limited government, lower tax -- we hear this all the time, cut spending, limit the government, everything will be fine. No, everything's not going to be fine. 

There are bigger problems at stake in America. And someone has got to go out there -- I will -- and talk about the things. 

And you know what? Here's the difference. 

The left gets all upset. "Oh, look at him talking about these things." You know, here's the difference between me and the left, and they don't get this. Just because I'm talking about it doesn't mean I want a government program to fix it. 

That's what they do. That's not what we do. 

(APPLAUSE

KING: Congressman Paul? 

PAUL: As an OB doctor, I've dealt with birth control pills and contraception for a long time. This is a consequences of the fact the government has control of medical care and medical insurance, and then we fight over how we dictate how this should be distributed, sort of like in schools. Once the government takes over the schools, especially at the federal level, then there's no right position, and you have to argue which prayer, are you allowed to pray, and you get into all the details. 

The problem is the government is getting involved in things they shouldn't be involved in, especially at the federal level. 

(APPLAUSE

But sort of along the line of the pills creating immorality, I don't see it that way. I think the immorality creates the problem of wanting to use the pills. So you don't blame the pills. 

I think it's sort of like the argument -- conservatives use the argument all the time about guns. Guns don't kill, criminals kill. 

(APPLAUSE

So, in a way, it's the morality of society that we have to deal with. The pill is there and, you know, it contributes, maybe, but the pills can't be blamed for the immorality of our society. 

(APPLAUSE

KING: Governor, please. 

ROMNEY: John, you know, I think as Rick has just said, this isn't an argument about contraceptives, this is a discussion about, are we going to have a nation which preserves the foundation of the nation, which is the family, or are we not? And Rick is absolutely right. 

When you have 40 percent of kids being born out of wedlock, and among certain ethnic groups the vast majority being born out of wedlock, you ask yourself, how are we going to have a society in the future? Because these kids are raised in poverty in many cases, they're in abusive settings. The likelihood of them being able to finish high school or college drops dramatically in single-family homes. And we haven't been willing to talk about this.

And when we have programs that say we're going to teach abstinence in schools, the liberals go crazy and try and stop us from doing that. We have to have a president who's willing to say that the best opportunity an individual can give to their unborn child is an opportunity to be born in a home with a mother and a father. And I think -- 

(APPLAUSE

KING: It's an issue on which all of you have criticism on the Obama administration, it's an issue on which some of you have also criticized each other. 

Governor Romney, both Senator Santorum and Speaker Gingrich have said during your tenure as governor, you required Catholic hospitals to provide emergency contraception to rape victims. 

And Mr. Speaker, you compared the president to President Obama, saying he infringed on Catholics' rights.

Governor, did you do that?

ROMNEY: No, absolutely not. Of course not. 

There was no requirement in Massachusetts for the Catholic Church to provide morning-after pills to rape victims. That was entirely voluntary on their report. There was no such requirement. 

Likewise, in Massachusetts health care bill, there's a provision in Massachusetts general laws that says people don't have to have coverage for contraceptives or other type of medical devices which are contrary to their religious teachings. Churches also don't have to provide that to entities which are either the church themselves or entities they control. So we have provisions that make sure that something of that nature does not occur. 

That's why when I worked closely with the leaders of the Catholic Church, I met with the cardinal a number of times, and with his emissaries. We talked about the issues we were concerned about. 

We battled, for instance, to help the Catholic Church stay in the adoption business. The amazing thing was that while the Catholic Church was responsible for half the adoptions in my state -- half the adoptions -- they had to get out of that business because the legislature wouldn't support me and give them an exemption from having to place children in homes where there was a mom and a dad on a preferential basis. 

Absolutely extraordinary. We have to have individuals that will stand up for religious conscience, and I did and I will again as president.

(APPLAUSE

KING: Mr. Speaker? 

GINGRICH: Well, the reports we got were quite clear that the public health department was prepared to give a waiver to Catholic hospitals about a morning-after abortion pill, and that the governor's office issued explicit instructions saying that they believed it wasn't possible under Massachusetts law to give them that waiver. Now, that was the newspaper reports that came out. That's something that both Senator Santorum and I have raised before. But I want to go a step further, because this makes a point that Ron Paul has been making for a generation and that people need to take very seriously. 

When you have government as the central provider of services, you inevitably move towards tyranny, because the government has the power of force. 

(APPLAUSE

You inevitably -- and I think this is true whether it's Romneycare or Obamacare or any other government centralized system -- you inevitably move towards the coercion of the state and the state saying, "If you don't do what we, the politicians, have defined, you will be punished either financially or you will be punished in some other way like going to jail."

And that's why we are, I think, at an enormous crossroads in this country. And I think the fact is, for almost all of us who have been at this for any length of time, we're now looking at an abyss that forces you to change what you may once have thought -- and I suspect all four of us are much more worried today about the power of the state than we would have been -- with the possible exception of Congressman Paul -- than we would have been at any point in the last 25 years. 

PAUL: John...

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Congressman, please. 

PAUL: ... have a quick follow-up?

(APPLAUSE) You know, we talk about the morning-after pill. Actually, the morning-after pill is nothing more than a birth control pill, so if birth control pills are on the market, the morning-after pill -- so if you're going to legalize birth control pills, you really -- you can't separate the two. They're all basically the same, hormonally. 

But once again, the question is, if you voted for Planned Parenthood like the senator has, you voted for birth control pills. And you literally, because funds are fungible, you literally vote for abortions because Planned Parenthood gets the money -- "Oh, I'll buy birth control pills," but then they have the money left over to do the abortion. 

So that's why you have to have a pretty strong resistance of voting for these bunches of bills put together. Planned Parenthood should get nothing, let alone designate how they spend. 

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator Santorum?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: As Congressman Paul knows, I opposed Title X funding. I've always opposed Title X funding, but it's included in a large appropriation bill that includes a whole host of other things, including...

(BOOING

... the funding for the National Institutes of Health, the funding for Health and Human Services and a whole bunch of other departments. It's a multi-billion-dollar bill. 

What I did, because Title X was always pushed through, I did something that no one else did. Congressman Paul didn't. I said, well, if you're going to have Title X funding, then we're going to create something called Title XX, which is going to provide funding for abstinence-based programs, so at least we'll have an opportunity to provide programs that actually work in -- in keeping children from being sexually active instead of facilitating children from being sexually active. And I pushed Title XX to -- to accomplish that goal. 

So while, yes, I -- I admit I voted for large appropriation bills and there were things in there I didn't like, things in there I did, but when it came to this issue, I proactively stepped forward and said that we need to do something at least to counterbalance it, A; B, I would say that I've always been very public that, as president of the United States, I will defund Planned Parenthood; I will not sign any appropriation bill that funds Planned Parenthood. 

(APPLAUSE)

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Senator (sic), go ahead.

PAUL: John, this demonstrates the problem that I'm talking about. There's always an excuse to do this. Now...

(APPLAUSE)

... Title XX -- I don't know whether you inferred that I would support Title XX for abstinence. No, it would cost money as a program. It's not a program of the federal government to get involved in our lives this way. If you want laws like that, maybe the state, but...

(APPLAUSE)

... the federal government shouldn't even be having -- spending money on abstinence. That's way too much more. I don't see that in the Constitution any...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: Just a -- just a brief comment. Senator, I just saw a YouTube clip of you being interviewed where you said that you personally opposed contraceptives but that you -- you said that you voted for Title X. You...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: But you used that as an argument, saying this is something I did proactively. You didn't say this is something I was opposed to; it wasn't something I would have done. You said this -- you said this in a positive light, "I voted for Title X."

(LAUGHTER)

SANTORUM: I think it's -- I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal more objection to it; even though I don't support it, that I voted for bills that included it. And I made it very clear in subsequent interviews that I don't -- I don't support that...

(BOOING)

... I've never supported it, and -- and have -- and on an individual basis have voted against it. That's why I proposed Title XX to counterbalance it. 

So I -- you know, Governor Romney, I can just say that -- that, you know, we were talking about this issue before of, you know, religious conscience and protections. But this is -- the whole reason this issue is alive is because of the bill that you drafted in Massachusetts, Romneycare, which was the model for Obamacare and the government takeover of health care. 

(BOOING)

ROMNEY: Wait a second. Wait a second. Wait a second. 

SANTORUM: And there was a study...

ROMNEY: Wait a second.

SANTORUM: There was a study that just came out about 10 days ago, two weeks ago, that listed 15 ways in which Romneycare was the model for Obamacare, everything from individual mandates, everything from -- from fines. Yours is different. You required businesses over 10 employees; Barack -- President Obama's is over 50 employees. 

But there -- there's a -- and even the drafter of your bill, when they were working on Obama's bill, said in fact it was the model. So here we have, as Newt said, the real fundamental issue here is government coercion and government coercion when you give governments the right to be able to take your responsibility to provide for your own health and -- and -- and care, and give it to the government.

That's what Governor Romney did in Massachusetts. It would be a very -- very, let say it would be a difficult task for someone who had the model for Obama Care, which is the biggest issue in this race of government in control of your lives, to be the nominee of our party. It would take that issue completely off...

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Governor -- Governor, take 30 seconds to respond and then I want to move the conversation on.

ROMNEY: Much longer than 30 seconds.

KING: I hope not.

ROMNEY: That's a -- that's a long -- that's a long -- that's a long answer. First of all, let's not forget that four years ago, well after Romney Care was put in place, four years ago, you not only endorsed me, you and Laura Ingram, and said and this is the guy who is really conservative and we can trust him. Let's not forget you said, that number one.

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: Number two...

(APPLAUSE)

ROMNEY: ...number two, under the tenth amendment, states have the right to do things that they think are in their best interest. I know you -- you agree with that. But let's -- let's point this out, our bill was 70 pages. His bill is 2700 pages. There's a lot in that 2,700 pages I don't agree with and let me tell you, if I'm president of the United States, I will repeal Obama Care for a lot of reasons. One, I don't want to spend another trillion dollars. We don't have that kind of money, it's the wrong way to go. Number two, I don't believe the federal government should cut Medicare by some $500 billion. 

Number three, I don't think the federal government should raise taxes by $500 billion and, therefore, I will repeat Obama Care. And let me -- let me -- let me mention one more -- the reason we have Obama Care -- the reason we have Obama Care is because the Senator you supported over Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, the pro- choice Senator of Pennsylvania that you supported and endorsed in a race over Pat Toomey, he voted for Obama Care. If you had not supported him, if we had said, no to Arlen Specter, we would not have Obama Care. So don't look at me. Take a look in the mirror.

(APPLAUSE)

KING: Senator please, quickly?

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: So, okay Governor, let's -- let's get this straight. First off number one, you funded Romney Care through federal tax dollars through Medicaid. I know it well, it's called disproportionate share provider tax. About $400 million that you got from the federal taxpayers to underwrite Romney Care to make sure you didn't have to raise taxes right away. But of course you had to. Ask your governor, of the $8 billion of tax increases he had to put in place.

Yes governor, you balanced the budget for four years. You have a constitutional requirement to balance the budget for four years. No great shakes. I'm all for -- I'd like to see it federally. But don't go around bragging about something you have to do. Michael Dukakis balanced the budget for 10 years, does that make him qualified to be president of the United States? I don't think so.

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: The bottom line is, what you did was you used federal dollars to fund the government takeover of health care in Massachusetts, used it as -- and -- and Barack Obama...

(CROSSTALK)

ROMNEY: ...Arlen Specter.

SANTORUM: Well, I'll get to that in a minute. 

(APPLAUSE)

SANTORUM: But -- and then Barack Obama used it as a model for taking over this health care system in America. Why I supported Arlen Specter, number one because -- because Arlen Specter was a -- a Senator who was going to be the chairman of the Judiciary Committee at a time when the most important issue that was coming up in the next session of Congress was two to three Supreme Court nominees that were going to be available. And one, and maybe two of them, or maybe all three were going to be out of the conservative block. And Arlen Specter as chairman of the Judiciary Committee, we had a conversation.

He asked me to support him. I said will you support the president's nominees? We had a 51/49 majority in the Senate. He said I'll support the president's nominees as chairman. Every nominee Arlen Specter supported from the time he -- he took on Judge Forks and saved Justice Thomas. Every nominee he supported, passed. Why? Because it gave Democrats cover to vote for it and it gave Republican moderates cover to vote for it.

Feb 23, 2012