DFL leaders in the House and Senate are gearing up for a showdown with Gov. Tim Pawlenty that will likely come next week. They want to try to override his veto of a bill to extend health care coverage for thousands of low-income adults.
Gov. Pawlenty vetoed an extension of the General Assistance Medical Care program -- called GAMC -- Thursday night, long-distance from Washington, within hours of the bill's final passage.
The Republican governor said the bill to extend GAMC for 16 months was too costly and didn't include enough reform. Pawlenty cut funding for the program last year to balance the state budget, and GAMC is set to end next month.
DFL Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller confirmed that there will be an attempt in the Legislature to override the veto, but he didn't say when. Pogemiller said he wants more time to negotiate with the governor.
"The bill passed with very strong bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. So in this instance, the governor is the outlier," said Pogemiller. "Unless he comes up with some ideas that are different than what a vast majority of the Legislature -- Democrats and Republicans -- have come up with, it's not clear what we're supposed to do here."
House Majority Leader Tony Sertich said he wants to wait on an override until after the governor returns to the state next Tuesday. House Democrats would need the help of three Republicans to override a veto.
All but nine Republicans in the House voted for the bill Thursday. But Republican leaders are now promising a united front to uphold the governor's veto.
Sertich said he knows that Republicans are already feeling a lot of the political heat.
"If my party bosses were coming after me, and I had a choice between my party bosses and taking care of the folks back home, I'm talking care of the folks back home," said Sertich. "I hope that people have the courage of their convictions to vote the way they voted this week, to do what's needed to solve this problem."
House Minority Republican Leader Kurt Zellers of Maple Grove voted for the bill, but he said he was expecting the legislation to stop in a conference committee for more fine-tuning and not go immediately to the Senate floor.
Zellers blames the Senate for playing politics.
"I don't know that you would see any marquee bill zip through both bodies and be on the governor's desk in less than an hour. That's just unheard of," said Zellers. "This was obviously a political ploy by the Senate. Congratulations, they got their shot. But at the end of the day, the bill got vetoed because they weren't willing to do any of the work."
The GAMC program serves about 38,000 adults every month. They all make less than $8,000 a year.