Reactions are coming in about the executive order Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed today directing state agencies to refuse “discretionary participation” in the federal health care reform law signed by President Obama this spring. While the press release on the order (which used the term “Obamacare” four times) came not from Pawlenty’s PAC or campaign but the governor’s office, early reactions — from local and national Democrats, plus TIME magazine — chalk the move up to Pawlenty’s presidential ambitions.
Just a few days earlier, Gov. Pawlenty said no to $850,000 in federal funds for teen pregnancy prevention through sex education – but yes to $505,743 in federal funding for abstinence-only sex ed with a requirement for a $379,307 Minnesota match. And after saying no to state agency participation in federal health care programs, Pawlenty said he will probably say yes and apply for Medicare funding – though he’s still on the fence (see sidebar).
Meanwhile, the Democratic National Committee issued a statement with a serious point — followed by its own jokey translation of the order. DNC National Press Secretary Hari Sevugan:
“After rejecting $7.8 billion dollars for his cash-strapped state where taxpayers are struggling to make ends meet and denying health care to a quarter million of his fellow Minnesotans, Tim Pawlenty’s executive order to state employees might as well have read ‘You will henceforth work for my Presidential ambitions instead of the people of Minnesota.’”
Despite executive order, Pawlenty says he will apply for Medicare funds
by Andy Birkey, Minnesota Independent
Despite signing an executive order on Tuesday decrying “Obamacare” and directing state departments to reject discretionary healthcare grants from the federal government, Gov. Tim Pawlenty says the state will probably apply for $263 million in Medicare funds available through a bill signed into law in early August. Pawlenty had previously hedged on whether his administration would apply for the funds by the Sept. 24 deadline.
“We’ll likely take that money,” Pawlenty told the Star Tribune. “It’s not Obamacare, it is something that we were going to be doing anyhow.”
He said the state will take federal money “where it’s appropriate and where it’s wise and doesn’t further some stupid policy agenda or otherwise concerns us or sign us up for something that is unsustainable or otherwise cause us a problem, we’re going to apply for those other pots of money.”
Last week, Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller and House Majority Leader Tony Sertich wrote a letter to Pawlenty urging him to accept the deficit-neutral funding on Minnesota’s behalf.
“Failure to accept the funds would result in residents paying federal taxes to pay for Medicare programs in other states,” they wrote. The Minnesota Medical Association and the Mayo Clinic also called on Pawlenty to secure the funds for the state.
In addition to refusing discretionary funding set aside for Minnesota in the federal health care law, Pawlenty also turned down nearly $2 million in federal funds for the state: $850,000 in free funding for comprehensive sex-education programs (he’s opting for a program whereby the state can receive a $505,000 grant for abstinence-only education after coming up with $380,000 of its own) and $1 million in federal funding for Minnesota’s health insurance rate reviews.
The DNC’s version of the order:
A Translated Version of what the Pawlenty executive order actually means:
EXECUTIVE ORDER 10-12
DIRECTING STATE DEPARTMENTS AND AGENCIES REGARDING DISCRETIONARY PARTICIPATION IN THE FEDERAL HEALTH CARE LAW
I, TIM PAWLENTY, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MINNESOTA, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and applicable laws do hereby issue this executive order:
WHEREAS, my Presidential ambitions are of paramount importance,
WHEREAS, I am polling at 1% in Iowa despite spending more time there than most Minnesota counties this year,
WHEREAS, the Republican party has been taken over by the Tea Party and only those politicians who position themselves as ideologically pure servants of the far right can emerge from Republican-Tea Party primaries,
NOW, THEREFORE, I hereby order that:
All state employees will work for my Presidential campaign and not the people of Minnesota including by
- Rejecting $7.8 billion despite the looming deficits facing the state
- Denying 250,000 of the most vulnerable Minnesotans health care when they need it most
IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have set my hand this 31st day of August, 2010.
/s Governor Tim Pawlenty (R-Iowa)
TIME Magazine also casts the move as a political maneuver. Kate Pickert writes, “I might be a little less skeptical of Pawlenty’s motives if not for one glaring fact. He’s not running for re-election and will be out of office in January, meaning his successor could overturn this executive order with the stroke of a pen.”
She also looks at a possible unintended result of Pawlenty’s gesture — more government oversight:
Broadly, it means that federal government could have more power over them than without the executive order. See, despite how vehemently health reform opponents insist the new law in unconstitutional and will be “defunded” if and when Republicans gain control of Congress, the law is the law. And pieces of the law that the states decide not to implement will still be implemented – just by the federal government.
Read the order: