FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Dozens of Tea Party activists and conservative religious leaders flooded a state Senate meeting on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) Monday, calling the law a gross overreach by the federal government and begging lawmakers not to implement it.
The first meeting of the Senate Select Committee on PPACA, chaired by state Sen. Joe Negron, a Republican, was a fiery one as lawmakers discussed what will be one of the most critical and contentious issues of the upcoming legislative session.
The state must decide whether to expand its Medicaid rolls to offer coverage to more residents and whether to set up a state-run health exchange or allow the federal government to run the program. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has been a vocal critic of the health care law. He softened his stance after the election, signaling he wants to work together with the feds, but is worried about the cost to taxpayers.
A rowdy conservative crowd commandeered a nearly hour-long public comment section, stressing that the constitution does not grant the federal government the authority to make health care decisions, despite a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that upheld most of the health care law. All but one spoke against “Obamacare”.
“We will not comply with this unlawful mandate,” Pastor James Hall of the Baptist Coalition of North Florida said to rousing applause.
Constitutional attorney Krisanne Hall said she travels the country talking to citizens and religious groups who echo that sentiment. She asked the Senate committee to consider how it will deal with citizens “when they lawfully and constitutionally stand and say we will not comply.”
Democratic Senate Minority leader Chris Smith was booed when he reminded the crowd that the federal government stepped in to uphold justice in civil rights cases.
“Our Constitution is an imperfect document. If it was perfect it would not have amendments to it. The constitution had to be amended through time.”
“Sometimes you need change and I look forward to looking at this law,” he said.
The committee made no decisions Monday and lawmakers gave little indication of what they might decide.
The state has until Dec. 14 to tell federal officials if it will set up its own health exchange, an online marketplace where residents and small businesses can shop for health care coverage. The state can also partner with the federal government on an exchange or allow the feds to run the program entirely.