Gov. O'Malley: Romney twisted himself into an "ideological pretzel"

(CBS News) As Republicans are attacking the president's health care law, Democrats on Sunday criticized Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney for supporting - and passing - an individual mandate as Massachusetts governor.

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley said Gov. Romney has "had to twist himself into an ideological pretzel to satisfy the Tea Party wing that's running their party" on health care by coming out in opposition to an individual mandate and vowing to repeal the health care law.

O'Malley said Romney passed the mandate because alternatives were falling short.

"I think the reason why he did that was because he saw that the free market solution wasn't working," O'Malley said on "Face the Nation," in response to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who said he supports a free-market health care plan for his state.

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The Maryland governor said he has implemented parts of the health care law in his state already.

"We decided early on to be an early implementer of health care reform, of 'Obamacare,' because we know that's good for businesses," O'Malley said. "That's why we have an exchange up and going, and that's why we're going to have an economic competitive advantage over other states that decide to put their head in the sand and pretend this isn't a problem."

O'Malley said the Republicans are creating a "falsehood" by saying the health care bill is "a massive tax increase."

"A massive-so-called tax increase they're talking about is the freeloader penalty which would affect at most 1 percent to 2 percent of people that could afford health care and instead want to be freeloaders on the rest of us with uncompensated care," he said.

The Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate is constitutional because the penalty imposed on those who don't purchase it is a tax.

O'Malley said Democrats need to tie health care to the economy this election season.

"We cannot build an economy that lasts, an economy expanding jobs if we're every year throwing away more and more money on ever-more expensive health care for fewer and fewer people with worse and worse outcomes," he said. "So what we have an opportunity to do now that the Supreme Court has affirmed 'Obamacare' is to show that this will allow us actually to reduce the rising costs of health care. In fact, since passage last year we've seen premium costs, the rate of growth, has actually declined."

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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