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Pawlenty Backs Away From Tenther Claims: ‘I Wouldn’t Go So Far As To Say It’s A Legal Issue’

By Amanda Terkel on September 13, 2009 at 10:51 am

"Pawlenty Backs Away From Tenther Claims: ‘I Wouldn’t Go So Far As To Say It’s A Legal Issue’"

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In a conference call with right-wing activists this week, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) seemed to question whether health care reform is unconstitutional. When one participant asked Pawlenty whether any governors would be “willing to invoke the 10th Amendment if the health care bill is passed,” Pawlenty replied:

You’re starting to see more governors, including me, and specifically Gov. Perry from Texas, and most Republican governors express concern around these issues and get more aggressive about asserting and bringing up the 10th Amendment. So I think we could see hopefully a resurgence of those claims and maybe even lawsuits if need be.

Today on ABC’s This Week, Pawlenty gave a different answer. Although he told his far right base that “maybe even lawsuits” will be needed to block federal health care reform, Pawlenty today told host George Stephanopoulos that it wasn’t “a legal issue”:

PAWLENTY: Well, George, in the legal sense, I think the courts have addressed these Tenth Amendment issues, but more in the political sense, in the common sense arena, we need to have a clear understanding of what the federal government does well and what should be reserved to the states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So just to be clear, are you suggesting that any parts of the plan as the president has laid it out are unconstitutional?

PAWLENTY: Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a legal issue. I was raising it as much as a practical matter, that there are some things that the federal government shouldn’t do, doesn’t do well, and should leave to the states.

Watch it:

Pawlenty also tried to show the dangers of Obama’s federal health care plan by…invoking state health care plans. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius promptly rebutted Pawlenty’s examples, noting that the struggles in Massachusetts and Tennessee are exactly why health care reform is so necessary: “So bending the cost curve has always been part of what Congress is talking about, and it’s impossible to do a state at a time. We need a national strategy.”

Transcript:

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Governor Pawlenty, let me begin with you, because after the speech on Thursday night, the president says he’s going to get this done. After the speech on Thursday night, you suggested perhaps invoking the Tenth Amendment, which reserves powers to the states, if indeed this does pass. What exactly are you saying? There is a movement to actually nullify health care if it passes?

PAWLENTY: Well, George, in the legal sense, I think the courts have addressed these Tenth Amendment issues, but more in the political sense, in the common sense arena, we need to have a clear understanding of what the federal government does well and what should be reserved to the states.

We have essentially Obamacare that’s been deployed in two states in major ways. One is in Tennessee. We have a Democratic governor, Phil Bredesen, said hey, look, we tried this cost savings as a way to fund a major overhaul of health care; it didn’t work. He’s in the news this morning saying, you know, don’t go down that path.

We have another state, Massachusetts, who tried essentially the same thing. They have the most expensive health care in the country. They have increasing waiting lines, and it’s not working.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So just to be clear, are you suggesting that any parts of the plan as the president has laid it out are unconstitutional?

PAWLENTY: Well, I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a legal issue. I was raising it as much as a practical matter, that there are some things that the federal government shouldn’t do, doesn’t do well, and should leave to the states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Sebelius, what about that? The governor says there’s two places that a form of what the president is calling for has been tried, Tennessee and Massachusetts. He says they haven’t worked.

SEBELIUS: Well, I think that — first, good morning, Governor Pawlenty and senators. I — Tim and I were elected in 2002 and reelected in 2006, and I haven’t seen him in a while.

As he well knows, the Tennessee experiment is really different from anything that’s been talked about here. It’s something that really was an attempt to make a vastly over-expensive Medicaid system work. It did crash and burn. It’s different than any place in the country, I would suggest, that has done a much better job at expanding care and holding their costs.

In Massachusetts, they readily admit that they expanded care and didn’t look at the cost side of the puzzle, which is why I think the president continues to suggest that anything we do, it has to bend the cost curve. And as he said to Congress the other day, even if you bring down the rising health care costs .1 of a percent, you save $4 trillion over the first 10 years of the plan. So bending the cost curve has always been part of what Congress is talking about, and it’s impossible to do a state at a time. We need a national strategy.

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