Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) asserted that a mandate requiring individuals to purchase health care insurance violates the U.S. Constitution during an interview on Fox News last Friday.
Addressing the legality of the measure, which was included in the health reform package enacted into law earlier this year, the six-term incumbent didn't hold back in sharing his take on the matter.
"The individual mandate, in our eyes, is clearly unconstitutional," explained Hatch to FNC anchor Greta Van Susteren. "If Congress can do that to us, then there's nothing that the government can't do to us."
Earlier this year, Julie Rovner at NPR reported on the twist of irony at the core of the Republican senator's position:
The last time Congress debated a health overhaul, when Bill Clinton was president, Hatch and several other senators who now oppose the so-called individual mandate actually supported a bill that would have required it.
In fact, says Len Nichols of the New America Foundation, the individual mandate was originally a Republican idea. "It was invented by Mark Pauly to give to George Bush Sr. back in the day, as a competition to the employer mandate focus of the Democrats at the time."
When the Clinton administration attempted to achieve health care reform, Hatch co-sponsored legislation that included an individual mandate alongside Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.).
After first appearing to flip-flop on the issue earlier this year, Hatch struggled to explain the shifting nature of his stance during an appearance on CNN.
"In 1993, we were trying to kill HillaryCare and I didn't pay any attention to that because that was part of a bill that I just hadn't centered on," he said. "But, since then, of course, 17 years later, when it comes up and I know it's possible it's going to pass, then I looked at it and, constitutionally, I came to the conclusion this would be."
Nevertheless, Hatch criticized the health care reform legislation passed under the Obama administration as "disastrous" during his more recent appearance on Fox News.