Sen. Schumer says Romney "in a pickle" over health care

(CBS News) Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Sunday that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is "in a pickle" arguing against the president's health care bill because he passed a similar version in Massachusetts.

"He prescribed this. This was his bill," Schumer said on "Face the Nation." He noted Republicans "have ads saying it's a tax increase. Are they going to say, 'Mitt Romney had the biggest tax increase in Massachusetts?'"

"Mitt Romney is in a total pickle here," Schumer said, arguing that the Republican Party is in a tough position: As polls suggest the economy is the top priority of voters, he said Republicans are making health care a top issue in the election, while Democrats in Congress will be focused on job creation.

"The Republican Party's in a box, the Tea Party's pulling them over to just talk about repeal," he said. "They're going to vote on a repeal of health care, litigate a battle that has been going on for four years, and we are going to put on the floor a small business jobs tax cut."

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But on the same program, Senator Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said health care is very much a part of the economic discussion. "I think it's extremely intertwined with the economy. And I think it's an example of where Washington doesn't get it. One of the reasons we don't have significant job creation is the federal government itself," he said.

"We're approaching the health care problem the wrong way. As a practicing physician for over 25 years, the one thing you want to do is fix the real disease, not the symptoms, and the Affordable Care Act fixed a lot of symptoms but not the disease," he said.

Coburn said the disease is the cost of health care. "With the Affordable Care Act, it's going to cost a whole lot more," because "bureaucrats and politicians are in charge of your health care."

"What we should have is real access and real care for people without an insurance company," he said. "And we've not done that with this bill, and a lot of the programs that are out there today don't do it, and we need to change health care in America. But what we've done is making the problem worse, not better."

Schumer took issue with Republicans' assertion that the individual mandate is a tax, which is also what the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the mandate said. Schumer said it's not a tax, but "a penalty."

"This is a penalty on free riders," Schumer said. "When someone who doesn't have health care shows up at a hospital or doctor's office and needs treatment for an injury or illness, who pays for it? The rest of us. The average family pays $1,017 more in health care costs to pay for those free riders, and we say, 'Yes, they ought to pay a penalty and shouldn't be a free rider, it's the right thing to do.'"

  • Leigh Ann Caldwell On Twitter»

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

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