Romney tells Virginians health care is a state issue
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SALEM, Va. -- Previewing his response to this week's expected decision on the nation's health care law, Mitt Romney told supporters in southwestern Virginia on Tuesday that health care is a matter of "states' rights" and "personal responsibility," and that he'd block the federal plan if the Supreme Court doesn't.
Mr. Romney, whose individual health insurance mandate in Massachusetts was a model for the provision at the heart of the current debate, said that if the court strikes down the federal law this week, "then the first 3 1/2 years of this president's term will have been wasted on something that has not helped the American people."
Alternately, if the justices uphold the law, "we're going to need a president -- and I'm that one -- that's going to get rid of Obamacare. We're going to stop it on Day One," the Republican presidential candidate told several hundred cheering supporters in the sun-drenched parking lot of a construction machinery company.
"I'm going to get rid of the cloud of Obamacare and get us back to personal responsibility and states' rights as it relates to health care," said Mr. Romney, who has defended the plan he imposed in Massachusetts but has also said states -- not the federal government -- should regulate health care coverage.
After a morning fundraising event and private meeting with local business executives, Mr. Romney's only public appearance during an overnight visit to the Roanoke area, the most populous part of largely rural southwest Virginia, was the outdoor rally.
With giant earth-moving equipment and a huge American flag as backdrops, Mr. Romney also made his first public comments on Monday's Supreme Court decision on Arizona's tough immigration-enforcement statute, which he strongly supported during the GOP presidential primaries.
The remarks largely tracked a statement he made at a private fundraising event Monday in Arizona. After the court allowed one portion of the statute to stand and outlawed the rest, he said: "What we're left with is a bit of a muddle. But what we know is the president failed to lead," by not pushing for an immigration overhaul early in his presidency, as he promised in the 2008 campaign.
Mr. Romney also repeatedly criticized Mr. Obama for policies that, he said, have penalized coal companies such as those in Virginia's extreme southwestern corner, home to the state's mining industry. Some of those in the crowd of several hundred sported T-shirts and signs distributed by the coal industry -- and the company that played host to the event, Carter Machinery Co. Inc., sells mining equipment.
According to government records, the firm also was a beneficiary of the Obama stimulus program, which Mr. Romney criticized during his 20-minute speech for adding hundreds of billions of dollars to the federal debt. Carter Machinery received $368,000 in 2010 as a subcontractor on an upgrade project for the NOAA Ship Oregon II, a vessel used for fishery and marine research.
The Obama campaign used Mr. Romney's appearance to attack what it called "a developing pattern where Romney visits businesses that benefited from the Recovery Act to bash the Recovery Act." Asked for a response, the Romney campaign referred a reporter to a statement from Carter Machinery CEO Jim Parker, a Romney supporter, who told the Roanoke Times that when his company is paid for government work, "we do not know the source of these funds," and that it "has never received direct stimulus funding."
Virginia is one of several states governed by Republicans where Mr. Romney's message of reversing U.S. economic decline has clashed with above-average recoveries from the recession. The jobless rate in the Roanoke area, 5.8 percent, is more than 2 percentage points below the national average. The area is now benefiting from a sharp fall in the cost of gasoline, with pump prices of $2.96 near the site of the Romney rally.
First Published June 27, 2012 12:00 am