What Minnesotans are making of the health care reform bill

Of course, the big news this weekend was the House of Representatives passing a health care reform bill, the details of which seem to be the subject of much debate and confusion (The New York Daily News attempts to answer some of those questions here). Michele Bachmann, who has been at the center of some of the most theatrical expressions of opposition to this reform, rose before the House on Saturday night to deliver one final, impassioned and somewhat confusing minute-long denouncement of the bill.

The Twin Cities Daily Planet republishes the video, which shows Bachmann dressed in a Hawaiian lei. She explains that some Hawaiians were so upset by the bill that they flew themselves to Washington D.C. to protest to their representative and also delivered the lei. “I‘m reminded that the one who created this lei also created our freedom,” Bachmann says. “Are we so insensible to the high cost our forebearers (sic) paid to purchase our freedom?” There’s not much you can say in 60 seconds, so Bachmann can be forgiven if her speech raised more questions than it answered but, still, we’re left wondering when she began representing Hawaii, and who she thinks created the lei — the Hawaiians, or our forebears? Neither answer is very satisfying, as the Hawaiians certainly didn’t create our freedom, but our forebears certainly didn’t create the lei. Bachmann was also the subject of some mockery from Barney Frank, who recounted his experiences with health care protesters, as reported by the Associated Press. Frank said “Some of the people (at the rally) that wanted to engage me in conversation appeared to have been the losers in the ‘Are you smarter than Michele Bachmann contest?’ “

Oh well. Mixaphorical speechifying aside, the health care reform vote passed; Bachmann voted against it, as you might expect, and MinnPost’s Washignton correspondent Cynthia Dizikes has a rundown of how the remainder of the Minnesota delegation voted. Brad Swenson of the Bemidji Pioneer points out that lawmakers from Northern Minnesota were split on the bill, including 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson, who was the only Minnesota Democrat to vote against the bill, which wasn’t much of a surprise, as Peterson had already expressed criticism of the bill to the Star Tribune, offering up a dire prediction: “If this bill became law, either the system would collapse or you would create the biggest tax increase that we’ve ever seen in history.” Opinions about Peterson breaking ranks seem split, if the handful of comments on Polinaut are any indication: “If the Democrats can’t get Collin Peterson’s vote on this bill, it’s time to Dump Peterson,” says one commenter, while another rejoices, saying “Horray (sic) for Colin! Thats one good vote.”

Responses to the bill passing are likewise mixed. Union officials from Minnesota, quoted in Workday Minnesota, are pleased, with Minnesota AFL-CIO President Shar Knutson thanking representatives who voted for the bill on behalf of union workers. Minnesota Democrats Exposed, in the meanwhile, sums up the vote as follows: “Tonight, Democrats chose to enrich trial lawyers; their political contributors while cutting Medicare benefits for seniors.” Of course, the voting isn’t done yet — if you remember that Schoolhouse Rock commercial on how a bill becomes a law, it still has to pass through the Senate, and, as Reuters points out, that’s where the real battle will take place, and it’s not entirely certain how Minnesota’s senators will vote. Although it looks likely that Al Franken would support the bill, Amy Klobuchar has been a bit more circumspect, as Jason Hoppin of the Pioneer Press pointed out: Klobuchar has offered only “conditional support” for a public option, which the current bill contains.

With health care dominating the national stage, nobody will be surprised that it was a big subject for Tim Pawlenty this weekend. Saturday night the governor took another step in his own movement toward the national stage, speaking before a group of 500 or more Republican leaders in Des Moines. (“The only thing Gov. Pawlenty hasn’t done in his possible run for the White House is officially announce he’s a candidate,” says Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck.) Pawlenty pilloried the health care reform bill, as reported by Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press: The governor asked if his listeners were tired of having “Democrats shove health care down your throats.” The Associated Press elucidates his comments further, quoting Pawlenty as saying, “It’s hard to overstate how bad the bill is.” Pawlenty also said of the reform bill, “[S]adly, it allows for taxpayer funding of abortions.” It doesn’t, but Pawlenty couldn’t have known that, as taxpayer-funded abotions, as Pawlenty put it, was struck from the bill as part of the last-minute compromises required to get the bill passed, as is likely to be a big source of contention in the Senate. The entirety of Pawlenty’s speech can be heard on MPR.

There is one other thing Pawlenty hasn’t started doing yet, if he chooses to run for president: He hasn’t started making campaign promises. But he did make promises when he ran for governor, and the Associated Press looks at one of his more audacious ones: Pawlenty promised to end homelessness by 2010, saying the goal was “very real and attainable.” How has he done? “Minnesota’s homeless population grew 4 percent last year in estimates from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development,” while it actually dropped nationwide. According to the AP, the reason his plans stalled were the recession; the governor does not seem to have an explanation as to why there hasn’t been similar growth nationwide, where, after all, there has also been a recession.

That’s not to say there have been no new Minnesota programs designed to help those in dire needs. In fact, the start of the deer season coincides with one such program, described by the AP: Hunters can turn in entire deer carcasses, which is then turned into venison and given out through food shelves. The program was started by State Rep. Rick Hansen, a Democrat from South St. Paul.

But Pawlenty has always been about tightening the belt, especially during a recession. Or has he? Pawlenty’s proposed constitutional cap on spending gets a fact-checking from WCCO’s Pat Kessler, who points out that the governor “has proposed budgets that far exceed the amount of money the state had to pay for it.” Oh well, if the amendment were to pass, at least the next governor would be bound by it, even if Pawlenty never was.

Condoleezza Rice was in town Sunday, speaking at Beth El Synagogue in St. Louis Park, and it’s interesting how differently the story was treated by the Star Tribune and FOX9. Herón Márquez Estrada’s story for the Strib opens with photos of protesters and discusses their complaints against the former Bush administrator, calling her a “war criminal” for her association with the Bush administration’s authorization of torture. FOX9 glosses over the protests in favor of describing the audience for Rice: “just about the entire crowd of 600 people was very attentive and gave Rice multiple standing ovations.” Depending on whom you talk to, this demonstrates either liberal or conservative bias in the media.

In sports: The Associated Press reports on the Twin clearing out their Metrodome merchandise, including “leftover bobblehead dolls and cardboard cutouts.” In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find the mention of the word “bobblehead” more in a news story; it appears five times in this short story, and never fails to amuse. The Deadspin blog, however, failed to be impressed, saying “This is the way the Metrodome ends. Not with a bang but a closeout sale.” We would like to suggest that “Not with a bang but a bobblehead” might have been funnier, but to each his own.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 11/09/2009 - 10:13 am.

    That story about my Congresswoman and her Hawaiian supporters just begs for the headline “Bachmann Gets Leied.”

  2. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/09/2009 - 12:28 pm.

    Rather than any kind of media bias in the descriptions of reactions to Condi Rice’s speech, I’d those inside — the standing ovations ones — represented the far right segment of our population. The demonstrators outside represented the left. The media just reported what they saw and heard.

    Pawlenty’s Amendment: As governor, Pawlenty can control REVENUE by continuing or adding to his tax cuts for Minnesota’s wealthy. The amendment to the constitution would just cut spending to match. It’s a monstrous idea that should be killed on Day I of this legislative session.

  3. Submitted by Brad Robinson on 11/09/2009 - 12:32 pm.

    As to her comment: “I’m reminded that the one who created this lei also created our freedom” I assume she is referring to God, and that the Healthcare Bill bill represents a violation of our God-given freedom. I don’t agree with her that the bill violates anyone’s freedom, but I’m pretty sure that’s what she meant.

  4. Submitted by Max Sparber on 11/09/2009 - 12:51 pm.

    That’s still puzzling though. I mean, certainly God might have made the flowers, but He didn’t put string through them to make a floral necklace.

  5. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 11/09/2009 - 01:06 pm.

    But God made us so that we might make leis from his bountiful creation.

    Just like God made doctors, healthcare, and healthcare insurance.

    Oh, and a rock so big only He could pick it up.

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