Democrats say they will attempt to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a bill that extends health insurance for more than 30,000 Minnesotans.
The House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the legislation Thursday, but Pawlenty, who's in Washington D.C, quickly vetoed the bill, setting up a showdown in the Minnesota House as Democrats try to convince a handful Republicans to reject Pawlenty's veto.
DFL VOWS TO PASS BILL
Shortly after Gov. Pawlenty announced through a spokesman that he would veto the bill, three Democrats in the Minnesota House lined up outside reporters' doors to say they won't stand for it. Rep. Paul Thissen. DFL-Minneapolis, said Democrats, hospital officials and advocates for the poor will work to convince three Republicans to vote to override.
"They're going to be hearing from their hospitals and their communities and I think for that reason we are going to pick up the votes to override this veto and we should," Thissen said.
On Thursday, the House and Senate overwhelmingly passed a $284 million bill that would extend the General Assistance Medical Care program for another 16 months. Lawmakers were moving quickly because benefits for the 30,000 people on the program who live below the poverty line will run out on April 1st.
Pawlenty vetoed funding for the program last year, and he has proposed rolling those on GAMC into a different program known as MinnesotaCare. But Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, said MinnesotaCare is too expensive for people currently enrolled in General Assistance Medical Care.
She said the plan passed by lawmakers would cost less than Pawlenty's, and that it's unfair to balance Minnesota's budget on the backs of the state's poorest and sickest residents.
"While we have a difficult budget to solve, I don't think this is the population that should pay the price," she said. "There are other Minnesotans that have the means to tighten their belts. But this population living under bridges, who have served our country, they're in hard times and we're taking away one of the last benefits that they have--their health care."
WHILE PAWLENTY TRAVELS, DFL LOOKS FOR HOUSE VOTES
Pawlenty was in Washington D.C. when the bill passed. His spokesman, Brian McClung, released a statement saying Pawlenty will veto the bill from Washington. He said the bill spends too much and includes quote "no reform." On Thursday, Pawlenty was on a call from Washington D.C. with reporters in Nevada criticizing President Obama's upcoming trip to that state. He declined to say why he would veto the bill when this Minnesota reporter asked him about it.
"We're trying to limit this to the Nevada press but Brian McClung has outlined the reasons for that in a communication to you and if hasn't he will shortly," Pawlenty said.
"Can you identify what your main objections to it?" the reporter asked.
"It will be the ones that Brian [McClung] identifies for you when you get that information if you haven't already."
Pawlenty, who appears to be gearing up for a run for president in 2012, is scheduled to speak to a group of activists at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington Friday morning. While he's in Washington D.C., Democrats and Republicans in Minnesota will frantically count heads to see if an override will happen.
In the state Senate, Democrats have enough votes to override a veto. The key question is the House where Democrats are three members short of an override. 38 House Republicans and all 87 Democrats voted for the bill on Thursday. It takes 90 votes to override a veto. House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, is confident Republicans will stick together and uphold the governor's veto. He said he thinks any GAMC solution should be included in a plan to fix the state's $1.2 billion budget deficit.
"We think it's part of a bigger budget solution," Zellers said. "This should be a part of it, the GAMC fix or a new program should be a part of that fix. We're going to work together again, just like we did with this version of it to find a solution that not only the governor can agree to but the house and senate can agree to as well."
But Democrats say they'll remind Republicans that many of the hospitals in their districts stand to lose millions if an override doesn't happen. The House was unsuccessful in its attempt to override Pawlenty's veto of funding for GAMC last year.
The only successful override during Pawlenty's time as governor was in 2008 on a transportation bill that raised several taxes to pay for transportation projects.