Texas Republicans push health care opt-out bills
AUSTIN — Republican lawmakers, aiming to take a slap at Washington policies, are pushing legislation to oppose federal health care mandates in Texas.
The lawmakers debated a variety of proposals on Thursday in a state House committee aimed at the sweeping federal health care legislation signed by President Barack Obama last year. Lawmakers in several other states, fueled by tea party anger at Washington, are considering similar initiatives.
Many Republican lawmakers say the health care reforms are unconstitutional, particularly the provision requiring people to buy health insurance or face a penalty by 2014. More than two dozen states are suing the federal government.
One bill under consideration in Texas, by GOP Rep. Leo Berman of Tyler, attempts to outright "nullify" the federal reforms. Another, by Rep. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, would allow states to form alliances, or "compacts," to take over certain federal health care responsibilities.
"There is no part of the constitution of the United States that says you must buy health insurance," said Berman. His bill would impose criminal penalties on state and federal bureaucrats who attempt to enforce the health care legislation.
Democrats were highly skeptical of the proposals. Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said the legislation was more about "politics and rhetoric" than solving problems. He noted that Texas had the highest rate of uninsured people and cast doubt on whether the state could do a better job than the federal government in health care matters.
"It's pretty clear that that there have been several bills that attempt to rehash the 2008 presidential election," Martinez Fischer said. "Texas' actions speak louder than words . . . we have an abysmal track record."