House Democrats held a press conference Monday to protest the Republican leadership’s handling of a controversial bill aimed at rolling back federal health care reform.
H2, the bill in question, would make it illegal to require anyone to buy health insurance or to punish them for refusing to buy it. It would also require the state Attorney General to defend any citizen subjected to federal action over the individual insurance mandate.
Last week, during a tense first meeting, the House Judiciary committee approved the bill on a party line vote. Democrats argued for a slowdown, saying it wasn’t clear how much it would cost, since the proposal didn’t have a fiscal note attached.
“Why in the world would we not have an official fiscal note?” asked Minority Leader Joe Hackney. “On the second day of session, are we in that big of a hurry?”
Republican Chairman Leo Daughtry said he’d wait to send the bill to the floor until he got an official opinion from the House Appropriations staff but pushed ahead with the committee vote.
“We’re here to get bills acted on and do the people’s business,” he said.
Doing the people’s business evidently didn’t involve hearing from them. Daughtry declined to allow public comment or testimony from state agencies affected by the measure. Democrats protested that voters should be allowed to weigh in on such a weighty matter, but Daughtry responded the voters already had – in last November’s elections.
That’s why House Democrats held their own public comment session today, at a legislative press conference. Lawmakers, advocates, doctors and patients took the podium to speak in support of federal health care reform, warning that efforts like H2 to repeal the individual mandate would “eviscerate” the rest of the omnibus measure.
Dr Charles van der Horst from UNC School of Medicine called on state House Republican leaders to come up with alternative ways to fix the health care system.
“The Republicans do not have a plan. They’ve never had a plan for how to take care of these issues,” van der Horst said “They’re wasting our taxpayers dollars here in North Carolina. They should focus on the issues that are important to North Carolinians, such as more jobs and balancing the budget.”
House Speaker Thom Tillis issued the following response later this afternoon, taking the opportunity to mention today’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Roger Vinson in Florida’s lawsuit against health care reform:
“In the House of Representatives, we have no higher priority than to balance our budget and work to foster an environment that encourages job development," Tillis said. "The federal health care bill is bad for business in North Carolina. For over a year, North Carolinians have clearly expressed their displeasure with the federal legislation, and as recently as this afternoon, a federal judge in Florida expressed his concern by ruling the entire law unconstitutional.
"We will not stand idly and watch an unconstitutional usurpation of authority by the federal government. North Carolinians expect us to act to protect their right to make their own health care decisions. We plan to do just that, and protect North Carolina’s economy in the process.”
H2 could reach the House floor as early as tomorrow. With the GOP’s 68-52 edge, and the issue’s prominence on the NCGOP’s agenda, it’s all but certain to pass.