The former N.C. senator launched a new ad Tuesday in Iowa, where he's locked in battle with Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama with barely seven weeks to go before the state's crucial caucuses.
“When I’m president," he says in the ad, "I’m going to say to members of Congress and members of my administration, including my Cabinet: I’m glad that you have health care coverage and your family has health care coverage. But if you don’t pass universal health care by July of 2009 — in six months — I’m going to use my power as president to take your health care away from you. There’s no excuse for politicians in Washington having health care when you don’t have health care."
Clinton's campaign called the proposal "unconstitutional."
"That's not the way we're going to get universal health care in America," spokesman Phil Singer said. "We'll get universal health care by electing someone who has the strength and experience to actually get it done -- Hillary Clinton."
Edwards' campaign, which has been upping its attacks on Clinton, gleefully responded by saying, "she defends health care for politicians while millions of Americans and their families go without care."
But how would Edwards take away congressional health care? After all, he can't do it by executive order.
A spokesman said a President Edwards would have legislation introduced and, in effect, dare Congress not to pass it.
"If any member of Congress wants to argue that they should have health care while the American people don't, he should find a new line of work," said spokesman Eric Schultz. "When he’s president, John Edwards is going to demand accountability from Congress and he’s going to get it."
As for the constitutionality, Schultz cited the opinion of University of Chicago law professor Cass Sunstein, an Obama adviser quoted in a Politico blog.
"If legislation is introduced and Congress enacts it, that's fine,"
Schultz quoted Sunstein saying.
But Sunstein went on to call the Edwards' plan "a stunt."
"Congress isn’t going to enact legislation taking away its own health care," he said.