Outgoing Minnesota governor and potential Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty appeared on Fox News and Fox Business last night to defend his recent executive order prohibiting the state from applying for grants provided by the new health care law. Pawlenty’s ban could cost the state $1 billion or more in federal funds, but in his national TV tour last night, the governor compared the federal government to a drug hustler pushing its product on willing addicts:
PAWLENTY: Federal government’s acting increasingly like a financial drug dealer, handing out tastes or free samples, trying to get people addicted, further addicted. And we’ve just had it and we’re not taking the bait anymore. We’re not taking the free samples anymore. This is an executive order that says we’re sending them a strong message, but we’re also going to try to make sure the policies are for Minnesota not because some big federal bureaucracy tells us what to do.
Earlier that night on Fox Business’ The Willis Report, Pawlenty implied he didn’t believe that the grants for insurance premium review or reinsurance “make sense.” Watch a compilation:
Of course, the 97 different entities that applied for reform’s reinsurance grants can rightfully take offense to Pawlenty’s drug-dealing analogy and his dismissal of the money as nonsensical. After all, while his refusal to accept early Medicaid funding could be understood as an unwillingness to spend more state funds on the program, his decision to reject grants that require no state contribution is more difficult to comprehend. In fact, Minnesota was one of only five states to reject the federal grants for rate review.
Pawlenty is suggesting that he has a long record of refusing the federal government’s so-called financial drugs, but he recently signaled that he will accept $263 billion from the federal government to help fund the state’s Medicaid program and took additional dollars to fund abstinence-only programs. In fact, as Amanda Terkel reported yesterday, Pawlenty’s own budget instructed state agencies to apply for federal health care grants.