What a day Thursday was, at least as far as the fate of the General Assistance Medical Care program is concerned. This program, designed to provide health care coverage for low-income adults, was unilaterally defunded by Pawlenty last year. Well, it was briefly refunded Thursday when both the House and the Senate voted for a 16-month extension on the program. And, as Minnesota Public Radio’s Tim Pugmire explains, the extension was a popular one: The Senate passed it with a 47-16 vote, while the House voted a whopping 125-9 in favor of the bill.
The timing of the vote seemed like a nacky piece of gamesmanship — once a bill is passed, the governor has three days to veto it, or it becomes law, and as Polinaut’s Tom Scheck detailed, Pawlenty wasn’t on hand to do any vetoing. Instead, Pawlenty is in Washington, D.C., and won’t be back until Tuesday. Scheck also mentions that apparently House Republicans didn’t know Thursday was the final vote for the bill, which seems like it was either additional gamesmanship on the part of House Democrats or that Republicans need to start reading their schedules.
So nacky, yes, but sometimes cleverness will only get you so far. It seems somebody underestimated the reach of Pawlenty’s vetoing hand, which managed to stretch all the way from Washington to Minnesota to put the kibosh on GAMC, as the Associated Press reports. Pawlenty’s complaint? That it is premature to pass such a bill when the budget hasn’t been hammered out; you can read his fuller explanation on MPR.
The bill passed with broad bipartisan support, but when the question of overriding the veto comes up, it will be interesting to see how far that support extends. Twitter user mnblrmkr is cynical about the original votes, saying, “I suspect a lot of GOPers voted for it, knowing Pawlenty will veto, line-veto, or simply unallot. But would vote to sustain veto.” What? By why would they do such a thing? “Election year vote?” offers Pat Kessler via Twitter.
Tom Scheck explains what is required for an override, which is, essentially, three Republican votes. Well, surely out of the 38 House Republicans who voted for the bill Thursday, there must be three who will cast their votes to override the veto. “We will uphold the governor’s veto no matter what the issue,” House Minority Leader Kurt Zellers says in the Star Tribune. OK, then.
So what is Pawlenty doing in Washington, DC, anyway? He’s at a little something called CPAC, or the Conservative Political Action Conference, doing what Washington Posts’ The Fix blog calls looking “to make his conservative mark.” (They also call it his “coming out party,” which apparently means something very different in conservative circles than it does at, say, The Eagle bar in downtown Minneapolis.) For those on the left looking to be outraged by conservatives, this conference, which has the right speaking to the right in a relatively undiluted form, may be a bonanza. Nick Coleman paraphrases a doozy of a quote on Twitter: “CPAC speaker Babbin: To get Liberals to support waterboarding, just use Perrier. Ha. Ha.”
In the meanwhile, the Associated Press casts an eye at Pawlenty’s actual accomplishments as governor, and sums them up as follows: “State accomplishments, check. Conservative branding, check. Follow-through, questionable.”
While we’re on the topic of outrage, Rep. Michele Bachmann is, as usual, generating some. While Social Security is famously the third rail of American politics (in the “touch it and die” sense), Bachmann called the program a “tremendous fraud” on FOX Business (you can watch the video on MinnPost), and has made the case that Americans must be weaned off it, prompting Al Franken’s wife, Frannie, to respond with alarm. Paul Schmelzer of the Minnesota Independent has her quote: “The idea that a member of Congress would advocate pulling the safety net out from under seniors and families who depend on it every month is absolutely terrifying to me.”
A radio ad is trying to take advantage of the fact that Bachmann seems to be gleefully touching the third rail over and over. The ad is from Americans United for Change, and City Pages has a transcript of it, which features a ficitonal husband and wife angrily discussing Bachmann’s comments. Sample dialogue: “Yup, she wants us to hand over our Social Security to the same greedy, reckless CEOs responsible for crashing our economy. That’s just plain crazy.” (MinnPost’s Eric Black gives us the ad in Flash video format, with his commentary.)
One more tale about Pawlenty before we move on: As FOX9 reports, Pawlenty’s budget proposal does a neat little bit of stealing from Peter to pay Paul, shifting almost $10 million out of the fire safety account to address the deficit. Well, firefighters aren’t happy with this. MPR’s Tom Sheck, who seems to be all over the Pawlenty news lately, quotes Isanti Fire Chief Randy Polzin, who is part of a coalition representing the state’s 20,000 firefighters, and who are protesting this decision. Plozin says “While claiming to protect public safety, Gov. Pawlenty is doing the exact opposite … His actions endanger public safety. His actions endanger firefighters by preventing them from being properly trained and equipped. Gov. Pawlenty can’t have it both ways.”
Speaking of firefighters, two were injured in a Minneapolis fire Thursday. WCCO has the details: A grease fire that began in Heidi’s restaurant in south Minneapolis burned up an entire shopping complex, including Patina, Blackbird Cafe, Shoppe Local and Stacey Johnson Jewelry Design. Matt McKinney of the Star Tribune begins his story with the news that the morning before the fire, the owner of Heidi’s was declared one of the best chefs in the Midwest by the august James Beard Foundation. MPR has some spectacular photos of the fire, while Sheila Regan of the Daily Planet offers a video. The injuries to the two firefighters were minor.
Let’s not forget that there is an Olympics going on. The Onion has been having fun with St. Paul native Lindsey Vonn, running a story in which she credits her success to “good ski poles” and saying the following about the skier: “Grew up in Minnesota, so there is a good chance she is a joyless judgmental jerk behind her smiling facade.” But Thursday was a bad day for Vonn: As the Associated Press reports, a bruised shin cost her a second Olympic medal. “It hurts so bad,” the AP quotes her as saying.