By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
Christian Action League
RALEIGH — Whether N.C. Gov. Bev Perdue was taking advice from the state attorney general or following marching orders from President Obama, her decision to veto the Protect Health Care Freedom Act on March 4 has thus far withstood this week’s override effort on Wednesday in the House, which fell short four votes. But on Thursday, Republicans found a way to resurrect the measure.
“Our governor and our attorney general have sided with the president rather than the people of North Carolina,” said Rep. Jeff Collins (R-Nash), one of more than a dozen House members who debated the bill on the House floor Wednesday.
House Bill 2, which passed the Senate Feb. 15 and the House one week later would have protected Tar Heel residents from the individual mandate in the federal health care legislation that would force them to purchase health insurance. It would also have North Carolina joining some 26 other states in a lawsuit challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act
“Every survey I’ve seen of the people who actually have an opinion in the United States on this issue … say by at least a three-to-two measure that they are opposed to this healthcare legislation,” Rep. Collins said as he pushed for the veto override on Wednesday’s floor debate.
Democrats, led by Rep. Joe Hackney (Orange), reiterated their stance that the bill would put the state at odds with federal law, that it could endanger Medicaid funding and that it didn’t mesh with the overall focus of the legislative session — “jobs, jobs and jobs.” Some were incensed by their colleagues’ use of the term “Obamacare” to refer to the federal healthcare law.
“I won’t call it Obamacare. I’ll call it Pelosicare. I think she was the one who said we’ve got to hurry up and vote on this 2,300 page bill so we can find out what’s in it,” said Rep. John Blust (R-Guilford) as he argued that the vote was indeed about jobs and about the broader issue of the “power of the federal government over the states and the people of those states.”
“We don’t know how it’s going to affect us yet. … That’s what makes this vote a jobs vote,” Blust said. “The uncertainty created by this monstrosity … is now hanging over the community of those who create jobs in this country and in this state and creating enormous uncertainty.”
Rep. Johnathan Rhyne (R-Lincoln) said there is widespread, legitimate concern that the federal legislation “championed and advocated for by President Obama” would hurt jobs. He cited national examples of companies cutting jobs in response to changes in the healthcare industry and its “challenging regulatory environment.”
“We know that we have differences in this chamber, but if we think about what the people of our state want us to do and want us to empower the attorney general to do it is important to know that large segments of our citizenry oppose the federal legislation and would like for us to do anything within our power to challenge it,” he said.
In reference to jobs, Rep. Nelson Dollar (R-Wake) said he found it enlightening that the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the United States Chamber of Commerce oppose the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) addressed each of the governor’s reasons for vetoing the bill, mainly that she thought it contradicted federal law and could have unintended consequences. Stam reminded the House that Attorney General Roy Cooper had not brought up any of the “fiscal horrors” he later mentioned in a letter to Perdue prior to the bill’s passage. As he had in the past, the House Majority Leader challenged fellow lawmakers to decide whether they are citizens of North Carolina or children who need to have decisions made for them.
Wednesday’s vote, 68-51, fell along party lines. Republicans needed four Democrats to support the bill to give them the 72 votes that would have made the measure veto-proof. When the vote fell short, the legislation was presumed dead for the session. But then on Thursday, Republicans struck a deal with Democrats and voted to suspend a House rule that requires a bill only be allowed for reconsideration the day after it had failed, giving the measure new life.
Apparently a number of Democrats were missing on Wednesday from the House chamber – enough to shove a vote for reconsideration through and succeed in an override of the Governor’s veto. When Rep. Hackney (D-Orange) protested, arguing he had turned some of his Democratic colleagues loose to go home, the Republicans agreed to delay the vote if Democrats would support a suspension of House Rule 18, which would allow vetoed legislation to be reconsidered at anytime during this legislative session.
According to Mark Binker of the Greensboro News and Record, House Speaker “Tillis said Republicans showed good faith by not ramming through the veto override and that it would be his office policies to keep all vetoed bills alive until the end of session. ‘I just think it adds a level of leverage back on our side that strengthens this branch, and I think that’s appropriate,’ Tillis said.”
Therefore, HB 2, which was once dead, now lives again.