We sat down in Trenton with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for a profile to air on Nightline tonight. Here’s one exchange we had about the U.S. Supreme Court decision on President Obama’s health care law:
JAKE TAPPER: One thing that you said before the Supreme Court decision of last week was that you were going to wait until the Supreme Court decision before you decided what you wanted to do with the Obama healthcare Law and the Medicaid contingent. Have you decided what you’re going to do?
GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I haven’t decided yet, although I’m relieved that the Supreme Court decision, while I didn’t agree with their decision on the mandate, I am happy that they decided that they – the federal government can’t extort states in Medicaid, because, you know, it’s – what they were – what they were proposing to do was really extortion, in my view. And so, now I think states are going to get to make their own decisions on whether they’re going to expand their Medicaid programs or not, without risking the Medicaid population they already are serving. That was a bad idea. I’m glad the Supreme Court struck it down. And now, we’re going to be able to make a decision about whether to expand Medicaid or not in our state, in the context of what our current eligibility is, without having to worry about penalties to our existing poor people that the President wanted to hurt if we didn’t expand the program. I mean, it’s pretty extraordinary to have a president says he wants to take care of everybody but says, if you don’t take care of all the people I want you to take care of, I’m going to hurt the people you’re already taking care of. I mean, that’s a – that’s a pretty extraordinary thing. And I think the President got saved by the Supreme Court from putting governors in that position.
Gov. Christie also discussed his struggles with his weight. Read more here.
TAPPER: You said you disagreed with the decision. Have you followed any of the detective work being done about (Chief Justice) John Roberts changing his mind or -
CHRISTIE: I just heard – you know, I’ve read some things in the newspapers and I’ve heard some things on TV.
TAPPER: Do you disagree with his decision that, that government has a right to force people to buy health insurance by this penalty, this tax?
CHRISTIE: Either it had to be through the Commerce Clause or… it shouldn’t have been at all. And I think that the – the use of the tax side of it was kind of an escape hatch, that I don’t he’d use them; I didn’t think it was appropriate. But listen, nobody’s asking me to be on the U.S. Supreme Court anytime soon, Jake. So I’m not – putting my judgment in placement of Chief Justice Roberts. But just from my perspective, where I sit as a, as a old time practicing lawyer, I don’t think it was the right move.
TAPPER: You don’t think it was the right move for him to switch his vote though -
CHRISTIE: I don’t know about switching his vote. I don’t think that relying upon the Taxing Clause was the right decision. I think this had to go up or down on the Commerce Clause.
TAPPER: Mitt Romney passed the same thing into law, the same – call it a penalty, call it a tax. It was part of Romneycare.
CHRISTIE: Listen, I think the fundamental difference between the two is one was a – a decision made in a particular state for what fit that state best. The other one is a one-size-fits-all for the entire country, which I think is the wrong approach. So if the people of Massachusetts and Governor Romney and their state legislature felt this was the best way to approach it, I think they’re absolutely free to make that choice. But they shouldn’t be able to impose it on New Hampshire or Vermont or New York. And, and I think that’s the fundamental difference between the approaches. One is a federalism approach that says each one of the states should be able to make their own call on this. The Obama approach is a super federal government approach that says we should be able to decide one-size-fits-all for the entire country. I think that’s wrong, and I think it’s the fundamental difference. And I think as Governor Romney discuses this, those are the things he’s going to be emphasizing. Let every state make their own decision on this issue, but don’t impose a federal solution, a one-size-fits-all on the entire country.
See Gov. Christie’s advice for Mitt Romney here.
TAPPER: What are you doing in New Jersey to insure everybody?
CHRISTIE: Well – in New Jersey, we have some, some pretty aggressive laws … We have a very expansive eligibility for Medicaid, and we also have a Family Care Program that goes up to – I think it’s 250 or 300% of the poverty level, where people can get insurance coverage through the state. So we have a pretty expansive – coverage here in the state, and, and, in fact, in a lot of ways, we already are at the kind of coverage levels that they might be contemplating in this federal bill. Let each state make their own decision. Preciously, our state, before I got here – I might have just decided it differently, but our state made certain decisions regarding Medicaid that we’re doing, and, and let each state make the decision. I don’t understand what the problem is with that. I don’t understand why the President, except for, you know, just ego and a – and a sense of wanting something big imposed upon the entire country from Washington, D.C. is insisting on doing this. Let each state make their call.