WASHINGTON –- As former House Speaker and current GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich struggled Monday to clarify contradictory positions and quickly shifting statements on health care, a conservative advocacy group claimed that his record is full of holes.
“It is undeniable that Newt Gingrich has played leading roles in some of the most important battles on behalf of economic growth and limited government in the last quarter century,” said the Club for Growth’s “Presidential White Paper” analysis of the ex-Congressman from Georgia. But, CFG added, “[u]nfortunately, the problems in Speaker Gingrich’s record are frequent enough and serious enough to give pause.”
The conservative group cited Gingrich’s support for the TARP bailout in 2008, and for President George W. Bush’s Medicare Part D reform as two of the most egregious spots on his record in the last several years. CFG was also concerned that Gingrich has “advocated an individual mandate for health insurance –- a similar mandate is central to ObamaCare and is being challenged by 26 states in court as being unconstitutional.” And it quoted from his 2008 book "Real Change," in which he expressed support for the idea of health insurance being mandated by the government.
"Individuals are expected to help pay for their care. Everyone should be required to have coverage," Gingrich wrote at the time. "Those with very low incomes should receive vouchers or tax credits to help them buy insurance. Those who oppose the concept of insurance should be required to post a bond to cover costs."
The concept of posting a bond to pay for the cost of future possible care outlined in "Real Change" is essentially identical to what former Massachusetts governor and fellow GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney implemented in 2006. The Democratic-controlled legislature in his state eventually changed it to a straight mandate to buy insurance.
“The Romney proposal was, you had a right to self-insure. If you didn’t, you would have to post a bond, and the bond would have to cover the cost of an emergency room visit,” explained Robert Moffit, the director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for Health Policy Studies, who worked with ex-governor on his plan.
Gingrich has come under attack in recent days for his previous statements on health care.
On Sunday, he took to Twitter to defend himself: “[i]sn't it amazing how the left tries to hide from the facts of legitimate criticism and legitimate debate by yelling code words."
Gingrich also wrote a blog post seeking to clarify his position on the issue. The presidential hopeful explained that he is opposed to a federal mandate, and wants to repeal President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the health system.
CFG’s listing of Gingrich’s position on health care insurance bonds is another sign that conservatives are, by and large, not buying the distinction between the state and federal government when it comes to health care reform.
Gingrich is the first Republican presidential hopeful to be reviewed by CFG. They looked at his voting record and past political endorsements.
On a number of issues, CFG said Gingrich has a generally conservative record that is marred by a “penchant for [government] tinkering” in the private economy via taxes, regulation, and government spending.
Gingrich’s endorsement of former Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) was one example that it said showed Gingrich “appears to elevate partisanship to principle.” He has displayed “a strange contempt for serious conservative reformers within the GOP,” the report added.
“The totality leads one to be rather unsure what kind of president Newt Gingrich would be,” CFG concluded. “One could reasonably expect a President Gingrich to lead America in a pro-growth and limited government direction generally, possibly with flashes of real brilliance and accomplishment, but also likely with some serious disappointments and unevenness.”