By Aaron Klemz
Monday morning at the State Capitol, familiar accusations of “playing Presidential politics” were invoked, but this time former Governor Tim Pawlenty had nothing to do with the charge. Instead, it was Governor Mark Dayton’s response to a press conference where Rep. Michele Bachmann called for Dayton to rescind his executive order opting Minnesota into an expansion of Medicaid.
Representative Bachmann led a group of Republican state legislators to express their opposition to Minnesota’s participation in what they call “Obamacare.” The group attacked two specific actions that were Dayton’s first official acts as Governor. One opted into an expansion of Medicaid covering 95,000 low-income Minnesotans, made possible by a deal between legislative leaders and Pawlenty at the end of the last legislative session. The second allowed Minnesota agencies to pursue $1 million in federal grants to implement health care exchanges mandated by the Affordable Care Act. In her opening statement, Bachmann appeared to conflate the separate two actions, arguing that Minnesota would only get “about $10 per person” from the federal government. In reality, the $1 million grant would cover expenses to implement a health insurance exchange in Minnesota. Around $1 billion in federal funding will be provided for the Medicaid expansion.
Bachmann on delivering Tea Party’s State Of The Union response
Representative Bachmann was the star of the show, arguing that the health care law will create “the largest bureaucracy that America has ever seen” while blasting Dayton for “expanding the welfare rolls.” State Sen. Warren Limmer (R – Maple Grove) argued that Dayton’s executive order was unconstitutional because a previous legislature cannot “tie the hands” of the current legislature. State Senator Ted Lillie (R – Lake Elmo) claimed that companies were already “rationing health care” in response to federal health care reform. Both Limmer and State Senator Gretchen Hoffman (R – Vergas) claimed that Minnesota would become a “magnet state” drawing people from across the country to take advantage of generous welfare benefits.
While Representative Bachmann suggested that “extraordinary measures” to prevent implementation of health care reform were called for, none of the assembled Republicans went beyond asking Dayton to reconsider. While he suggested that “a citizen” could sue over the constitutionality of Dayton’s actions, Senator Limmer also stated that he had no plans “at this time” to file a lawsuit himself. When asked about a current bill to conform Minnesota tax law to a change allowing children to stay on their parent’s health insurance longer, no one clearly expressed opposition. And when pressed on what “extraordinary measures” she was advocating, Representative Bachmann didn’t offer anything specific.
Governor Dayton wasted little time in responding, calling Bachmann’s involvement “presidential politics at the expense of Minnesotans well-being.” He mounted a vigorous defense of his actions, arguing that it was morally right to ensure that every person had access to health care. “Here we go again. I remember back in 1986 when the ticket to office was attacking people on the welfare rolls . . . We’re better than that,” stated Dayton.
Representative Bachmann, just back from appearances in Iowa, seems to be everywhere recently as she explores a possible 2012 presidential run. After the 8:30 AM press conference, Bachmann flew to Washington D.C. to lead a “Conservative Constitutional Seminar” featuring Justice Antonin Scalia. Tuesday, Bachmann will respond to President Obama’s State of the Union address for the “Tea Party Express.”
Responding to questions after the press conference, Bachmann tried to avoid stepping on the toes of Republican leadership. Saying she was just “reacting to what the President was saying to the Tea Party Express group,” Bachmann stated “It’s not meant to be a competition in any way. [Rep.] Paul Ryan is the official GOP response and he’ll do a wonderful job.”