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House and Senate pass health care bill; Pawlenty vetoes

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.

Comments (14)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/19/2010 - 10:14 am.

    I’ll say it again…The legislature voted to refund GMAC; fabulous.

    I’ll ask again…Where did they find the money?

    Frannie Franken is in a perfect position to laugh off SSI’s impending implosion; she’s old enough to still expect a payment, and even if SSI collapses sooner than expected, she and Al are exempted from depending on SSI….government employees are smart enough to have bailed themselves out of the world’s largest Ponzi scheme years ago.

    Bake some cookies and relax, Frannie…you’re good to go.

    For the rest of us though, Rep. Bachmann’s honesty is a rare example of courage and is appreciated.

  2. Submitted by Max Sparber on 02/19/2010 - 11:04 am.

    Is it your policy to dismiss women you disagree with by telling them to bake cookies, Mr. Swift?

    Whether you share her politics or not, that was a pretty unclassy comment, and speaks very poorly of you.

  3. Submitted by Kassie Church on 02/19/2010 - 11:17 am.

    thomas, do you know what SSI is? SSI is paid out of the general fund, not the Social Security fund. I think you mean RSDI.

  4. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 02/19/2010 - 12:05 pm.

    swift: they found the money by stealing from the firefighters–see above. Now there’s a wise move! The stupidity goes on and on. I don’t think I’ll live long enough to see a responsible legislature and governor (including republicans) see to it that we had a prosperous and caring state. We did, too. People had good paying jobs and the economy was spinning. And I think taxes were high.

  5. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 02/19/2010 - 12:06 pm.

    Oh, and by the way, I think your discounting of women goes right along with your politics and your medieval thinking.

  6. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 02/19/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    What was Pawlenty doing in Washington at the CPAC conference? Evidently, making jokes about violent acts against the government. Speaking at CPAC, Pawlenty joked that the most important event going on in America on Friday is Tiger Woods’ impending press conference. “We can learn a lot from that situation. Not from Tiger, but from his wife. So she said, ‘I’ve had enough.’ She said, ‘No more,'” he said. “I think we should take a page out of her playbook and take a nine iron and smash a window out of big government in this country. We’ve had enough.”

    Is it any wonder we have nutjobs flying planes into IRS buildings? Keep it up, Timmy. Maybe someone will bludgeon another Census worker to death with a golf club.

  7. Submitted by dan buechler on 02/19/2010 - 12:41 pm.

    #3 I think you are right Max and Thom if you were both honest enough to admit you know the full context of the story (and I think you do) you guys wouldn’t be so snippy with each other. I had a childhood friend whose mother was helped greatly by social security after her husband died from a workforce injury. Thom go drink a beer.

  8. Submitted by Jon Graves on 02/19/2010 - 01:49 pm.

    Social security is collected by that department. It is then robbed by congress to the general fund. It has not made a difference Democrat or Republican they did it. In the 80s retired people took more out of social security than they put in within 5 years. The idiots in DC, and it was all of them, did not want to change it. Along with the rest of the their deficits. I remember MN Sen Bos said they had fixed it for another 10 years in like 1988. It is a lie the general fund has issued notes to Social Security, right, they will be good for it-not. Our Sen Franken said they were great investments in a debate last year, Coleman did not argue. To keep a vote the elected officials have done nothing. When there were 10 workers for every one retired they could pretend it was fixed. Soon there will be 1 retire for every 2-3 working and they have not saved any of the retired members money. Sen Bos was questioned as why was there not “means” testing and a higher taxable social security base. Why be smart it will become some elses problem later.

    If any one thinks SS, medicare and medicaid are truly solvent until 2030 send Santa clause to my house after he stops at yours.

    California is the first to be insolvent. Washington, DC has a lot more mirrors to confuse, but the only thing that will save it is the future generations and they will have to be brilliant. We let the elected officials do this because we were more comfortable. We screwed things up beyond repair. This someone else should pay for me has become the rule not the exception and there is only one place that will end.

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/19/2010 - 03:17 pm.

    For all of you ill informed fans of Senator* Franken, I am happy to fill you in. The Senator* hosts Monday morning breakfast meetings, for which Frannie bakes cookies.

    Further information…

    Ginny, the snippet above slams the Governor for pulling out $10 mil from “the fire safety account”…it’s a separate outrage for leftists to squirt crocodile tears over and has nothing to do with GMAC.

    I’m happy to provide everyone with these clarifications.

    Dan, I’m happy to hear that you know someone who got something out of Social Security and I congratulate them….that story will no doubt be of great comfort to the tens of millions of people that have had every paycheck they’ve ever earned docked for a retirement benefit when they find out it was a donation, not an investment.

    BTW, I don’t drink, but you go ahead.

    Bunny, just to prove I don’t discriminate by gender (or by anything other than behavior for that matter)…go bake some cookies.

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/19/2010 - 03:22 pm.

    BTW, Jon; you have summed up the situation perfectly. It’s nice to see that not everyone that reads Minnpost needs the attention of good little helpers such as myself to get the story straight.

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 02/19/2010 - 04:35 pm.

    In 1983, the Congress raised the cap on how much income would be subject to payroll deductions for Social Security and also increased the percentage slightly. This change brought in enough money to fund Social Security for every baby boomer — until George Bush spent it on phony wars.

    The government could easily, VERY easily, reduce defense spending by kabillions of dollars without putting this country into any danger and use that money to fully fund both Social Security and Medicare AND all mandates that are not now funded completely.

    After WWII, General George Marshall (of the Marshall Plan for restoring Europe) noted that we had to maintain a strong military for a while until Europe got back on its feet economically and the world recovered from the war. He hoped that “while” would be very short.

    He would be disappointed to see that, not only have we not reduced our extra-strong world-wide military presence, we have multiplied it and our spending over and over. It’s because we still believe that only WE can keep the whole darn world “safe” and that militarism is the way to do it. Dumb.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 02/19/2010 - 05:16 pm.

    Bernice, I understand your need to vent but honestly; naive misstatements are not beneficial to anyone.

    The social security “trust fund” has been plundered by every President and every Congress since it was founded. By current estimates, the fund will start to go into the red in 2017, and from there it will head straight into the tank.

    As Jon correctly pointed out, there are plenty of guilty parties out there.

  13. Submitted by Morgan Matthews on 02/19/2010 - 08:13 pm.

    I find it very interesting the Gov. Pawlenty and many who share his views use the analogy of a family considering its budget in tough times, and say the Government, like a family, must spend less.

    In my little family, we held this exercise, cut costs, and discovered that wasn’t going to do it. We needed more revenue. Oh, sure, we could have survived just by making the cuts, but to get to where we wanted to be, we needed more income.

    We did have to forgo some short-term gratification both with the cuts and the additional work to generate the needed income, but that’s what families actually do. It isn’t all just about cuts.

    Additionally, we stayed as far away as possible from accounting gimmicks or flashy finance schemes. Hmmm…

  14. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 02/20/2010 - 08:41 am.

    Actually, Timmy’s approach to Minnesota’s budget problems is the equivalent of a family who’s hit hard times deciding to just max out their credit cards and not worry about how they will pay the bills when they come due (that’s an “accounting shift”).

    …that and kicking the unemployed, elderly, disabled grandparent who’s been living with them out onto the street or ceasing to feed a couple of their kids.

    Timmy doesn’t have to worry about how the family fares down the road, because he’s already filed for divorce and intends to take off and leave his Minnesota “family” behind before the sheriff’s sale on the property takes place and before the credit cards accounts are closed.

    As far as Minnesota is concerned, Timmy has already made it clear he’s about to become the ultimate “dead beat parent,” and, despite coming from the party that claims a corner on “responsibility,” he could care less the “family,” whose situation he has had a HUGE hand in creating, fares after he takes off.

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