West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin's sprint away from President Obama's agenda accelerated a bit on Sunday, when he announced that, had he been in Congress at the time, he would have voted against health care reform.
Appearing on "Fox News Sunday," Manchin, running in a tight race for Senate, made what can only be described as a full 180. After having once said he would have voted for the bill, he cited onerous paperwork requirements, the physical length of the legislation, and the individual mandate for insurance coverage as reasons he would have opposed health care reform.
Chris Wallace: You're saying now that if you had known what was really in the bill, although last March you said you would have voted for it, you are now saying you would have voted against it?
Joe Manchin: Correct. Knowing the existence as far as how reaching it had been, as far as [garbled], I would have. And I think many people didn't know about the bill. It ends up 2,000 pages or more. Bottom line, the concept was great as far as pre-existing conditions, how do we make sure more people have affordable insurance, how do we take care of children ... keeping children on insurance longer because of the market conditions. There are a lot of good parts to it. Why won't we fix what is wrong with it and make it better.
There are a number of political and policy elements of Manchin's logic that are contestable. On substantive grounds, Obama himself didn't campaign on the mandate. But after consulting with advisers, he came to the conclusion that it would be exceedingly difficult to lower health care premiums and cover pre-existing conditions without requiring that the vast majority of people buy insurance coverage.
On political grounds, Manchin seems to be suggesting that he knows more about the health care law now than he did when it was being debated. Perhaps that's true. But he also didn't hesitate in commenting on the bill while it was being debated, giving off the impression that back then he understood it's various benefits and weaknesses.