From a 1994 article in the New Republic:
The question about Romney is where he would stand in Congress’s internecine battles. Would he side with Republicans such as John Chafee who have tried to develop constructive alternatives to Democratic legislation or with Republicans such as Phil Gramm and Newt Gingrich who have been willing to paralyze Congress for the sake of embarrassing the Clinton administration? Romney has indicated that he would side with the moderate wing. He endorsed the crime bill and refused to back Gingrich’s jejune “Contract with America.” He told me he would have backed Chafee’s health care bill. “I’m willing to vote for things that I am not wild with,” he said.
Romney also seems to eschew ideological absolutes. He favors a balanced budget, but acknowledges that it could not occur until the twenty-first century. He favors getting welfare recipients to work, but does not favor eliminating welfare with the idea that a bracing chill of poverty would invigorate the poor. He backs a modest tax cut for the middle class, but rejects a reduction in capital gains because it would raise the deficit.
The bolded sentence is highlighted by BlueMassGroup, a New England political blog, in a post today:
[B]ack in 1994 when he was running for Senate, Romney said he would support a federal individual health care mandate. Yes, yes, he did.
See, in 1993, then-Senator John Chafee, a Republican from Rhode Island, floated a health care bill that was supposed to be an alternative to the Clinton administration’s proposal. It never really went anywhere, but it did garner 20 co-sponsors in the Senate, including a couple of Democrats (Boren of AR and Kerrey of NE). And a key feature of that bill was that, if it passed, the bad ol’ federal government would have required every American (with the usual hardship etc. exceptions) to purchase health insurance.
Subtitle F: Universal Coverage – Requires each citizen or lawful permanent resident to be covered under a qualified health plan or equivalent health care program by January 1, 2005.
Romney is slated to give a big health care speech tomorrow in Michigan. A Romney aide told NRO yesterday that the former Massachusetts governor will stress in the speech the importance of allowing the states to choose their own health care plans and solutions. But his support — even if it’s from nearly two decades ago, and seemingly, with some reservations — for a federal health care plan that included an individual mandate won’t sit well with primary voters already suspicious about Romneycare.
UPDATE: Romney spokeswoman Gail Gitcho e-mailed National Review Online this statement in response to the BlueMassGroup post: “Governor Romney has made it very clear over the last many years, including during the 2008 presidential cycle, that he opposes a federally imposed individual mandate.”
UPDATE II: While we’re talking about Romney’s view of individual mandates over the years, it’s worth noting these Meet the Press quotes that the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent dug up from 2007:
ROMNEY: I’m a federalist. I don’t believe in applying what works in one state to all states if different states have different circumstances…Now, I happen to like what we did. I think it’s a good model for other states. Maybe not every state but most, and so what I’d do at the federal level is give every state the same kind of flexibility we got from the federal government as well as some carrots and sticks to actually get all their citizens insured. And I think a lot of states will choose what we did. I wouldn’t tell them they have to do our plan…
MR. RUSSERT: So if a state chose a mandate, it wouldn’t bother you?
MR. ROMNEY: I’d think it’s a terrific idea. I think you’re going to find when it’s all said and done, after all these states that are the laboratories of democracy, get their chance to try their own plans, but those who follow the path that we pursued will find it’s the best path, and we’ll end up with a nation that’s taken a mandate approach.