Senate rejects effort to oppose Obama health care bill

April 06, 2010|By Michael Dresser | michael.dresser@baltsun.com

The national health care debate found its way to the floor of the Maryland Senate Tuesday, and opponents of President Barack Obama's sweeping reform bill got their chance to cast votes against it.

The result in Annapolis wasn't much different from that in Washington, however, as the Senate voted 27-20 to defeat a proposal that would have put the state on record against a key provision of the Obama bill -- a mandate that individuals purchase health care insurance or face tax penalties.

The debate did give the state's Republican lawmakers the opportunity to vent their objections to the health care reform effort that passed Congress last month.

Sen. E. J. Pipkin offered the proposal as an amendment to an otherwise noncontroversial bill changing state rules to make Maryland eligible for federal grants to provide health insurance for patients in high-risk categories. The Eastern Shore Republican called on senators to strike a blow to "free us from the tyranny of the federal government."

Pipkin noted that similar measures intended to invalidate the individual mandate have been passed in Virginia and Idaho and are pending in dozens of other states. The senator said he didn't want to have to return to his constituents after the session without assuring them he had done all he could to block the federal requirement.

Sen. Alex Mooney, a Frederick County Republican, said his opposition to the mandate is a matter of "states' rights."

"The last thing we need is the federal government coming in here and dictating to us," he said.

Some Republicans have asserted that the individual mandate is unconstitutional, even though at various points in decades of debate over health care, GOP lawmakers have proposed versions of an individual mandate themselves. Obama has described the provision a Republican idea that he adopted. Opponents of the amendment called the measure meaningless because the courts rather than the Maryland legislature will determine whether the mandate is constitutional.

All 27 of the votes against the amendment came from Democrats. The state's 14 Republicans all voted for it and were joined by Democratic Sens. John Astle, James Brochin, George W. Della, Kathy Klausmeier, Norman Stone and Robert Zirkin.

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