Sen. Hatch Calls Ruling Against Mandate He Once Sponsored "A Great Day For Liberty"

December 13, 2010 1:46 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Sen. Orrin Hatch

Today, a federal judge in Virginia ruled that the individual mandate component of the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. In a press release, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) said the decision by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson — a George W. Bush appointee with "roots in Republican politics" — represents "a great day for liberty":

U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today applauded the decision by U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority in mandating that every American purchase health insurance or face a fine.

"Today is a great day for liberty," said Hatch.  "Congress must obey the Constitution rather than make it up as we go along. Liberty requires limits on government, and today those limits have been upheld."

There's no surprise in a conservative lawmaker touting a blow to President Obama's signature policy, but Hatch's statement is remarkable for another reason: the provision that was struck down in the ruling was originally proposed by Republicans, and Hatch was a co-sponsor.

Confronted with this inconvenient history, Hatch claims he never actually supported the idea of requiring individuals to purchase health insurance. As the senator explained last March, he only sponsored the plan because Republicans needed a viable alternative in order to kill the Clinton administration's efforts:

HATCH: We were fighting Hillarycare at that time. And I don't think anyone centered on it, I certainly didn't. That was 17 years ago. But since then, and with the advent of this particular bill, really seeing how much they're depending on an unconstitutional approach to it, yea, naturally I got into it, got into it on this issue.

In other words, while Hatch blasts his political opponents for 'making it up as they go along,' that's exactly what he's doing by supporting an individual mandate when it was politically expedient and leading the charge against it when it's not.