Pawlenty Continues To Accept Federal Dollars From Health Law, Despite Saying He Wouldn’t

Politico’s Sarah Kliff reports that governor turned full time possible presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) has agreed to accept some funds from the Affordable Care Act, undermining an executive order that prevented state departments from applying for the funds:

The state’s Management and Budget Office was one of 700 new organizations that signed up for the Early Retiree Reinsurance Program, a $5 billion program that helps pay for the insurance costs of retirees between the ages of 55 and 64. […]

But the executive order came with a caveat that the governor’s office would still evaluate federal funding opportunities on a case by case basis, “on the basis of whether they will support existing state initiatives or programs, or whether such federal funding opportunities create new encroachments by the federal government under the recently passed federal legislation.”

Pawlenty spokesman Bruce Gordon says participation in the new program does not violate the executive order because it promulgates existing state polices.

Governor Pawlenty’s executive order directs state agencies to not submit grant applications connected with Obamacare unless otherwise required by law or in keeping with existing state policies and approved by the Governor’s office,” he told POLITICO. “In order to cut state spending, the governor has authorized an early retirement incentive program for state employees. This grant supports the governor’s ongoing policy to reduce state spending, in this case, by incentivizing early retirement.”

Recall that Pawlenty had defended his EO by likening federal dollars to “drugs” and the government to a drug dealer. “Federal government’s acting increasingly like a financial drug dealer, handing out tastes or free samples, trying to get people addicted, further addicted,” he told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren. “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.”

Indeed, Pawlenty is attempting to nationally position himself as a strong opponent of ACA funding, while simultaneously carving out exceptions to his own restrictions. So far, Minnesota has received some $11.1 million in ACA grants and Pawlenty has separately accepted $263 million in federal dollars to bolster the state’s Medicaid program.