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Health care debate filled with emotion

TPT’s Mary Lahammer, a veteran Capitol reporter, said many House members broke down crying during the emotional debate on whether to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of health care for the poorest of the poor, starting in 2011.

“I think it was the most emotional debate I’ve seen in more than a decade of closely covering the Capitol.  One lawmaker said there was dead silence on the floor during voting,” she said in her blog.

Reported Lahammer:

“Rep. Tom Huntley Health Chair said these people are widows, severely disabled, mentally ill trying to stay off the street and stay alive.

“Rep. Jim Abeler former overrider now on Team Pawlenty said ‘General Assistance Medical is very important, not having it gives us all pause, it’s a sober day, none take this lightly…it’s not the way to go.’

“Rep. Larry Hosch ‘I don’t think this is a tough vote, I’ll vote green and I’ll look everyone in the eye when I walk out of here.’

“Rep. Lyndon Carlson cried hard, like I’ve never seen him before talking about friends lost, saying this is ‘life and death here’ and declared it one of the most important votes of his very long political career.

“Rep. Michael Beard talked morality and Christianity and said ‘this is not Christ’s law, but law in statute book.’

“Rep. Rod Hamilton former overrider reformed appeared to be crying then too saying ‘listening to this is difficult, it’s not about money, it’s about priorities.’  And he went on to note other legislative priorities they spent time and money on like earthworms and stadiums.”

The override vote failed. That means the governor’s $381 million cut will eliminate General Assistance Medical Care (GAMC) funding for fiscal year 2011.  GAMC is a free program for poor adults without children.

Some Republicans noted that there’s still a year left for the Legislature to find other ways to fund the program. But DFLers said hospitals have to make plans now to make such drastic cuts, leading to much consternation.

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