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Minnesota House committee passes bill to block ‘Obamacare’ after heated hearing

After a heated discussion Tuesday evening, the House Health Reform Committee passed a bill along party lines that would halt implementation of the federal Affordable Care Act in Minnesota until the constitutionality of the law is considered by the U.S. Supreme Court. The committee meeting grew contentious as Republicans’ repeated use of the term “Obamacare” led Democrats to consider dubbing the eight-year Iraqi war the “Bush wars,” and DFLers trying to preserve key aspects of the act including a ban on rejecting patients — especially children — who have preexisting health conditions for coverage. Rep. Glenn Gruenhagen, the bill’s author, said that voting against his bill amounted to rejecting the “Creator.”

HF468 states that state funds cannot be used to implement provisions of the Affordable Care Act until the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it constitutional. In his statement in support of the bill, Gruenhagen said, “I realize people of good will can disagree on this.”

The Glencoe Republican spoke of natural law as being derived from a creator.

“Your vote today will indicate whether you primarily hold to the belief in a creator and the absolutes rooted in natural law which are found in the Declaration of Independence and preamble to the Constitution, or you believe in sociological law, which rejects a creator and replaces the creator with judges who become our king and nobility accountable only to themselves,” he said.

Democrats on the committee objected to the way the bill was discussed and how the committee meeting was handled.

Rep. Rena Moran of St. Paul said she would prefer the committee used the proper name for the bill and not “Obamacare,” a neologism crafted by Republicans.

“It would be really nice if you would use the proper term the Affordable Care Act,” she said. “I need to hear that.”

Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester also objected to the use of the term. “It’s offensive in the way its used, and it’s used in a very partisan way,” Liebling said.

The chair of the committee, Republican Rep. Steve Gottwalt of St. Cloud, interrupted Liebling and said major media outlets use the term, so he would allow it. “I respect people’s sensibilities, but I think there is enough common usage in society right now around this to say that either term can be used.”

Liebling responded, “Mr. Chair, I think I had the floor. I’m sorry, but it’s quite unusual to be interrupted in the middle of a statement. I was about to end my statement by simply saying that from now on I think I will now refer to the Iraqi war as ‘the Bush war’ and say that over and over.”

“Rep. Liebling you’re out of order,” Gottwalt said. “That is so off-topic.”

That exchange was similar to one in Montana last month. A Republican legislator said he would only use the term “Obamacare” when referring to the Affordable Care Act, and a Democrat objected by saying, “We don’t call the Iraqi war ‘Bush’s War,’ and by that same reasoning, I don’t think it’s appropriate to call this ‘Obamacare.’”

Later in the meeting, Liebling made it clear she wasn’t finished with that line.

She mentioned that many testifiers noted the cost of the Affordable Care Act. “The Iraq war has caused the state of Minnesota $18 billion,” she said, prompting Gottwalt to declare her out of order.

“Rep. Liebling, I’m asking you to cease,” he said.

Liebling shot back, “I resent being censored. I have First Amendment Rights, and I have an election certificate. I think it’s entirely on topic,” she said, noting that many testifiers and committee members have cited the federal deficit in criticizing the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats had offered a series of amendments to Gruenhagen’s bill to retain certain parts of the Affordable Care Act, including allowing children under age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance plans, maintaining the act’s ban on dropping coverage for children who have preexisting medical conditions and maintaining tax breaks for small businesses.

Each amendment failed along party lines, and Gruenhagen’s bill passed the committee.

Before it passed, however, one committee member asked testifier Kim Crockett of the Minnesota Free Market Institute what would happen if the Supreme Court never ruled on the Affordable Care Act.

DFL Rep. Patti Fritz asked, “Would that bar Minnesota from forever participating in the Affordable Care Act?”

“You are right, they could decline to hear the case, though it’s unlikely,” she said. “Minnesota would be left with a legal quandary.”

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