There was back-patting all around at the Capitol on Thursday as Republicans and Democrats joined forces to approve a 16-month extension of a state health care plan for thousands of low-income adults, many of them mentally ill.
Republicans and Democrats didn't get everything they wanted, but that's the way compromise worked before it became a dirty word.
Then Gov. Pawlenty vetoed the bill:
The Senate will vote to override the governor. Then it will go to the House, where it passed 125-9, more than enough votes to override the veto.
But late this afternoon the Republican caucus in the House announced they'd vote against the bill and vote to uphold the governor's veto.
Here's the statement from Rep. Kurt Zellers:
"Governor Pawlenty wants to push for more reforms to the state's health care programs, and our caucus will support that effort. We will uphold the Governor's veto.
"Representatives Matt Dean and Steve Gottwalt offered real reform ideas during today's floor debate and we will bring those ideas back to the table as we try to achieve a solution. This is difficult work. We'll roll up our sleeves and get back at it."
What does this mean? It means Zellers' caucus voted for a bill they thought was bad, or intend to vote against a bill they think is good.
Ninety votes are needed in the House to override the governor's veto. There are 87 DFLers in the House.
Suppose you have three Republicans sitting with you now who say they're on the fence. Given your opinion of the bill, what would you tell them to get them to your side?
A balanced budget is nice, but there are more important things in this state and this life than money. Taking care of people who need it is one of those things, and that certainly applies to people of low incomes, people with health care needs, people who are mentally ill, or people who may be all of the above, like many of those affected by this legislation. A failure to approve this program is not just a failure of a bill to pass or of a partisan measure. Rather, it would be failing in one's duty to the citizens of this state and of the common good.
C'mon Republicans - what do you believe? do you vote from conscience and what you believe is best for Minnesotans or what the party leaders tell you to do? A society is judged by how it treats those who are disadvantaged. Healthcare is a public good - access to healthcare is a right and a "must do" for thoughtful and compassionate communities.
If this is a good way to fix healthcare for some of the poorest Minnesotans (or at least a good way to not hurt them until you can figure it out) then over ride the Governor. If you had a lapse in judgement and this is a bad fix, don't just vote it down - tell us what you will do instead to assure these citizens won't lose their coverage (and by the way a ton of hurt will also be done to everyone by further eroding the viability of many hospital providers in our state).
So what will it be - flip flopping politician or community leader?
I would tell those 3 Republicans that they should remember that were elected largely becasue of the vote of 'pro-life' Christians in their district. There is nothing 'pro-life' or Christian about targeting the first cuts at the poorest of the poor. I realize the budget needs to be balanced. However, when I use my Christian values to prioritize the items in the budget from first-to-cut to last-to-cut, the safety net of the poorest among us is the LAST thing to be cut.
I think it would depend one which 3 republicans they were, but if they were of the Christian right I would simply say "As you do unto the least of us, you do also unto me."
Since obviously more than 3 Republicans voted for the bill the first time around (including Minority Leader and would be Governor Marty Seifert) I think strength is in numbers. More than 3 need to vote to override so that those who would oppose them have too many targets to "make and example of." If Seifert wants to be Governor, and would support this if elected, he needs to come out and say that. That action would allow him to show a level of leadership that is focused on Minnesota. It is obvious that the Governor's focus is elsewhere.
Dear 3 Republican Heroes-
Thank you for making the health and well being of our state's poor and disabled a top priority. Those of us who pay taxes and are able to work appreciate your hesitation to raise our taxes or somehow otherwise distribute the cost of such programs amongst those of us who can afford it. However, TAKE COURAGE! Do not fear! We understand the budget crisis is a complicated matter and that ultimately, we who can afford to pay, may pay a little more. Thank you for remembering that to us, the value of human life is far greater than any budgetary discrepancies. Thank you for putting yourselves in the uncomfortable position of voting for legislation that will provide care to thousands of vulnerable Minnesotans, even though this vote may disagree with your usual political views. Separation of powers prevents us from finding a positive political solution. Thank you for remembering to do your duty to find a positive policy solution.
I don't understand funding sports and other non-necessities, then not being able to fund basic care for individuals who need it. "There but for the grace of god, go I." Any one of us could be that person in need.
Most all families in this state have at least one relative with mental illness. I think the voters will remember who voted to hurt the most vulnerable.
C'mon Republicans. Everyone needs the safety net.